Foreclosures suppressed voter turnout throughout Milwaukee County

Two researchers from Milwaukee (Paru Shah of UWM andĀ Amber Wichowsky of Marquette) found that foreclosures have the power to suppress votes.

By comparing Milwaukee County public voting and property records, they found that people who lost their home in foreclosure in the Great Recession or were in danger of getting foreclosed on were less likely to vote in the 2012 elections. This was true regardless of race or income. They also found that neighborhoods with a higher incidence of foreclosures had lower voter turnout.

Unfortunately, the article is paywalled and I couldn’t get a copy, so I can’t tell you more than that (study; UWM press release).

However, one thing is certainly of note. I talk a lot about how people who lose their home in foreclosure are victims, and this is certainly true here. A whopping 1 out of every 45 homes in the US had a foreclosure filed against it in 2009. Millions of people lost their homes and their life’s savings. We might expect that a problem that upends this many lives would have a serious constituency: people find others affected by the issue, and organize to ensure that politicians listen and find a solution.

But that’s the opposite of what actually happened. People facing foreclosure didĀ not organize and pressure elected representatives to find a solution. They were in fact disengaged from the political process and less likely to vote at all. Elected representatives never implemented a solution congruent to the size of the problem, and the fact that its victims were less likely to be engaged in the political process helps explain why.

It’s also damaging to society at all levels when people don’t exercise their right to vote or otherwise engage civically–another unexpected consequence of foreclosures.


Photo: Flickr / Vox EFX