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Disenfranchising refers to the removal of the ability to vote from a person or group of people.
An example of intentional, legal disenfranchisement of individuals is how some U.S. states deny the ability to vote to a convicted felon. Specifically, 13 states disenfranchise all convicted felons for life; Texas bars ex-felons from voting until two years after they are released from custody, and two other states (Arizona and Maryland) permanently disenfranchise two-time convicted felons. In addition to these 16 states, 13 others also ban persons who are on probation for a felony but were not sentenced to prison time from the suffrage, and these plus three more states (or 32 in all) disqualify those on parole from voting. Four states — Maine, Massachusetts, Utah and Vermont — actually allow prisoners to vote while in custody, and 14 exclude only persons who are presently serving time in a state prison. Some states treat a dishonorable discharge from any of the armed forces as the equivalent of a felony conviction.
Another example is the disenfranchisement of entire groups of people, such as women, various racial, ethnic or religious minorities depending on the country, or members of some political groups. This can lead to warfare, as in the case of the American Revolutionary War (the cry 'No taxation without representation' conveys this message). This is a good example of the intentional disenfranchisement of a group of people (British colonists in America) by the government in Britain.
Another form of disenfranchisement is experienced by voters in the District of Columbia, who have voted for the President since the 23rd Amendment to the Constitution in 1961. The District is still disenfranchised from having representation in Congress.
An example of unintentional disenfranchisement of a group of people is expounded by supporters of the U.S. Electoral College. Briefly, supporters feel that strict majority vote would disenfranchise the mostly rural American West, by denying them the ability to ever influence an election due to their small numbers. This would be unintentional disenfranchisement as it is an effect of the change, not a direct goal of the change in voting law.
Felony disenfranchisement is discussed extensively by the Sentencing Project, an organization concerned with reducing prison sentences and ameliorating some of the negative effects of incarceration. Although the information provided by this organization is biased against various practices, the website provides a wealth of statistical data that reflects data available from organizations with opposing views, and from the United States government and various state governments.
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