I’m a JD/PhD candidate at Yale Law School and Harvard’s Department of Government.  I’m also a fellow in the Multidisciplinary Program in Inequality & Social Policy and an affiliate of the Institute for Quantitative Social Science.


Hopkins, Daniel J., et al. 2017. “Voting But For the Law: Evidence from Virginia on Photo Identification Requirements”. Journal of Empirical Legal Studies 14 (1) : 79-128.Abstract

One contentious question in contemporary election administration is the impact of voter identification requirements. We study a Virginia law which allows us to isolate the impact of requiring voters to show photo identification. Using novel, precinct-level data, we find that the percentage of registered voters without a driver's license and over age 85 are both positively associated with the number of provisional ballots cast due to lacking a photo ID. To examine the law's impact on turnout, we associate precinct-level demographics with the change in turnout between the 2013 gubernatorial and 2014 midterm elections. All else equal, turnout was higher in places where more active registered voters lacked a driver's license. This unexpected relationship might be explained by a targeted Department of Elections mailing, suggesting that the initial impact of voter ID laws may hinge on efforts to notify voters likely to be affected.

Meredith, Marc, and Michael Morse. Forthcoming. “Discretionary Disenfranchisement: The Case of Legal Financial Obligations”. Journal of Legal Studies.Abstract
Conditioning voting rights on the payment of legal financial obligations (LFOs) may be unconstitutional if there are no exceptions for indigency. Appellate courts, though, generally have upheld felon disenfranchisement laws that withhold voting rights until all fees, fines, and restitution are paid in full. These decisions, however, have been made with limited evidence available about the type, burden, and disparate impact of criminal debt. We address this by detailing who owes LFOs, how much they owe, and for what purpose using representative, statewide samples in Alabama. The median amount of LFOs assessed to discharged felons across all of their criminal convictions is $3,956, more than half of which stems from court fees. As a result, most ex-felons remain disenfranchised after completing their sentence. People who are disproportionately indigent -- those utilizing a public defender and blacks -- are even less likely to be eligible to restore their voting rights.
Ho, Daniel, and Michael Morse. 2017. “New Measurement Technologies: A Review and Application to Nuremberg and Justice Jackson”. In The Oxford Handbook of U.S. Judicial Behavior, Oxford: Oxford University Press.Abstract

This chapter reviews measurement technologies that have rapidly invigorated the study of judicial behavior, examining the standard approach to measuring judicial "ideal points" and discussing how such measures have facilitated broad new lines of inquiry in understanding judicial decision-making. But the measures, as this chapter explains, are no panacea. Proper use and interpretation depend critically on qualitative assumptions and understanding of underlying case law. This chapter argues that the way forward combines jurisprudentially meaningful data collection with advances in measurement technologies. These concepts are illustrated by empirically informing a long-standing debate about the effect of the Nuremberg trial on Justice Jackson’s jurisprudence.

Greenberg, Claire, Marc Meredith, and Michael Morse. 2016. “The Growing and Broad Nature of Legal Financial Obligations: Evidence from Court Records in Alabama”. Connecticut Law Review 48 (4).Abstract

In 2010, Harriet Cleveland was imprisoned in Montgomery, Alabama for failing to pay thousands of dollars in fines and fees stemming from routine traffic violations. More than thirty years after a series of Supreme Court rulings outlawed debtor's prisons, Ms. Cleveland's case brought national attention to both the sheer amount of legal financial obligations (LFOs) that could be accrued, even in cases without a criminal conviction, and the potential consequences of non-payment. But it has been nearly impossible to know how common Ms. Cleveland's experience is because of a general lack of individual-level data on the incidence and payback of LFOs, particularly for non-felonies. In this vein, we gather about two hundred thousand court records from Alabama over the last two decades to perform the most comprehensive exploration of the assessments and payback of LFOs to date across an entire state. Consistent with conventional wisdom, we demonstrate that the median LFOs attached to a case with a felony conviction nearly doubled between 1995 and 2005, after which it has remained roughly steady. But a felony-centric view of criminal justice underestimates the extent of increasing LFOs in the United States. Our systematic comparison of LFOs in felony, misdemeanor, and traffic cases across Alabama demonstrates how the signficant debt Ms. Cleveland accumulated for a series of minor traffic offenses is not such an aberration. We show that only a minority of LFOs are assessed in cases where someone was convicted of a felony and incarcerated. Rather, most LFOs are assessed in cases without an imposed sentence, in cases with a misdemeanor or traffic violation, or even in cases that did not result in a conviction at all. These case records also reveal substantial heterogeneity in the assessment of LFOs - both within and across local judicial districts - even in cases in which defendants were convicted on exactly the same charge.

Meredith, Marc, and Michael Morse. 2015. “The Politics of the Restoration of Ex-Felon Voting Rights: The Case of Iowa”. Quarterly Journal of Political Science 10 : 41-100.Abstract

We investigate how the restoration of voting rights affects the political participation of ex-felons. Our primary analysis uses unique administrative data from Iowa, which changed how ex-felons restore their voting rights in both 2005 and 2011. Prior to 2005, ex-felons had to apply to the governor to restore their voting rights. We show that ex-felon turnout increased after Iowa began to automatically restore these rights. Consistent with misinformation being a significant barrier to ex-felons’ political participation, ex-felons were more likely to vote if they were informed about this policy change. The application requirement was re-instated for ex- felons discharged since 2011 and we show that this reduced their 2012 presidential election turnout. We conclude by comparing the actual turnout rate of recently discharged ex-felons in Iowa, Maine, and Rhode Island to the turnout rate that Uggen and Manza’s (2002) method predicts. This  comparison suggests that although restoration procedures can substantively affect ex-felon turnout, restoration procedures are not the only reason why ex-felons vote less often than observably similar non-felons.

Meredith, Marc, and Michael Morse. 2014. “Do Voting Rights Notification Laws Increase Ex-Felon Turnout?”. The ANNALS of the American Academic of Political and Social Science 651 : 220-249.Abstract

Previous research documents widespread confusion about who can and cannot vote among people who have come into contact with the criminal justice system. This research, and considerable activism drawing attention to the issue, has spurred a number of state legislatures to pass laws requiring the states to notify ex-felons about their voting rights. The purpose of this article is to better understand the policy processes that produce these notification laws and to assess whether the laws affect ex-felons’ registration and turnout rates. Data on discharges from the correctional system and voter files are merged from three states that have recently passed notification laws: New Mexico, New York, and North carolina. Our findings show little evidence of an increase in ex-felon registration or turnout after notifi- cation laws are implemented. 

Working Papers

Goel, Sharad, et al. Submitted. “One Person, One Vote: Estimating the Prevalence of Double Voting in U.S. Presidential Elections”. DownloadAbstract

There are more than two million cases in a national voter file in which 2012 vote records share a common first name, last name, and date of birth. We develop a probabilistic birthdate model to estimate how many of these cases represent the same person voting twice. If voter files are a completely accurate account of who voted, we estimate about 0.02% of the votes cast in 2012 were double votes. An audit of poll books, however, suggests that many of these apparent double votes represent measurement error when recording turnout in voter files. Nevertheless, concerns about double voting have led many states to participate in the Interstate Crosscheck Program, which promotes purging registration records that share a common name and date of birth. We find their proposed purging strategy would eliminate about 200 registrations used to cast legitimate votes for every one registration used to cast a double vote.   

Other Writing