Sugie studies political participation

Naomi Sugie

Project expands voting interventions

Naomi Sugie, associate professor of criminology, law and society and co-director of the Center for Population, Inequality, and Policy, is among the inaugural slate of grantees for Public Agenda’s Democracy Renewal Project

Public Agenda is a research-to-action nonprofit organization dedicated to building a democracy that works for all. Its project awarded $500,000 in funding to 10 research teams to conduct practice-relevant studies showing how to achieve universal access to elections while strengthening trust and confidence in elections.

Sugie and Emily Rong Zhang of UC Berkeley, in partnership with the Alliance for Safety and Justice, will expand the scope of Project VOICES, a randomized controlled trial that tests text-messaging interventions to enhance political participation among individuals with criminal records and their families. Sugie and Zhang will study whether information and outreach through trusted messengers can build trust among the historically underrepresented constituency.

“We will be sending different types of text messages in the weeks leading up to the November 2024 election,” Sugie says. “The aim of the messages is to provide non-partisan information about the election, especially around legal eligibility to vote, to people who have had prior experiences with the criminal legal system (and may have been previously disenfranchised from voting). We will examine how these different messages affect registration and voting rates in the 2024 election.”

This study, she adds, “is important because it outreaches to system-impacted communities, who may not realize that they are legally eligible to vote.”

The last two decades, Sugie continues, have seen many reforms repealing disenfranchisement laws, giving people with criminal records back their legal right to vote, but many people do not know about the changes and, if they are not registered, they often do not receive basic information about elections. 

“If this method of outreach via text messaging increases electoral participation, it offers a promising, scalable method of informing people about rights restoration,” she says.
Mimi Ko Cruz