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Disenfranchisement: Historical Underpinnings and Contemporary Manifestations

PAQ, Vol. 39 No. 1, (2015)

For racial and ethnic minorities, voting is equated with citizenship and decision-making power. However, despite proclamations of freedom, justice, and equality, state legislatures across the country have enacted disenfranchisement laws to marginalize the voice of those deemed as “the other.” Using the social construction of target populations and critical race theory as the theoretical framework, this study analyzes state legislative trends to explain and underscore the implications of policies designed to impose a specific effect on target populations. This article argues that disenfranchisement becomes apparent through the implementation of colorblind policies that impose a financial hardship, create confusion, limits access to the ballot, dilute the vote geographically, or use subjective measures of eligibility. The result is a disproportionate effect on racial and ethnic minorities that prevents full access to the rights and privileges associated with being an American citizen.

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