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Ballots instead of Bullets? The effect of the Voting Rights Act on political violence

Jean Lacroix ()

No WP 20-007, Working Papers CEB from ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles

Abstract: The extension of voting rights epitomizes the construction of modern democracies. This paper empirically investigates the effect of such an enfranchisement on political violence in the context of the US Voting Rights Act (VRA - 1965). The Act forbade discrimination in voting. Its coverage formula generated both geographic and temporal local discontinuities in its application. The empirical strategy takes advantage of these features by comparing the evolution of political violence in geographically close covered and non-covered counties. Difference-in- differences estimates indicate that the VRA coverage halved the incidence and the onset of political violence. Alternative approaches such as geographic matching or geographic discontinuity design reach the same results whereas multiple tests validate the empirical strategy. Extensions also show that redistribution and electoral outcomes do not explain these dynamics. Instead, I report empirical evidence suggesting that voting became the new institutionalized way to state political preferences. Indeed, the VRA mostly decreased pre-elections and small- scale strategic disruptive violence and not complements to voting such as larger-scale protests turning violent.

Keywords: Political violence; Enfranchisement; Civil rights movement (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: D74 N44 H89 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2020-04-13
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-cdm, nep-his and nep-pol
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Handle: RePEc:sol:wpaper:2013/304198