Disfranchisement (also called disenfranchisement) is the revocation of suffrage (the right to vote) of a person or group of people, or through practices, prevention of a person exercising the right to vote. Disfranchisement is also termed to the revocation of power or control of a particular individual, community or being to the natural amenity they are abound in; that is to deprive of a franchise, of a legal right, of some privilege or inherent immunity. Disfranchisement may be accomplished explicitly by law or implicitly through requirements applied in a discriminatory fashion, intimidation, or by placing unreasonable requirements on voters for registration or voting.

By place of residence and ethnicity

United States

In the United States, state governments have had the right to establish requirements for voters, voter registration, and conduct of elections. Since the founding of the nation, legislatures have gradually expanded the franchise (sometimes following federal constitutional amendments), from certain propertied white men to almost universal adult suffrage of age 18 and over, with the notable exclusion of people convicted of some crimes [3]. Expansion of suffrage was made on the basis of lowering property requirements, granting suffrage to freedmen and restoring suffrage in some states to free people of color following the American Civil War, to women (except Native American women) in 1920, all Native Americans in 1924, and people over the age of 18 in the 1970s.

Washington, D.C.

When the District of Columbia was established as the national capital, with lands contributed by Maryland and Virginia, its residents were not allowed to vote for local or federal representatives, in an effort to prevent the district from endangering the national government. Congress had a committee, appointed from among representatives elected to the House, that administered the city and district in lieu of local or state government. Residents did not vote for federal representatives who were appointed to oversee them.

In 1804, US Congress cancelled holding US Presidential elections in Washington, D.C. or allowing residents to vote in them. Amendment 23 was passed by Congress and ratified in 1964 to restore the ability of District residents to vote in presidential elections.

In 1846, the portion of Washington, D.C. contributed from Virginia was "retrocessioned" (returned) to Virginia to protect slavery. People residing there (in what is now Alexandria), vote in local, Virginia and US elections.

Congress uses the same portion of the US Constitution to exclusively manage local and State level law for the citizens of Washington, D.C. and US military bases in the US. Until 1986, military personnel living on bases were considered to have special status as national representatives and prohibited from voting in elections where their bases were located. In 1986, Congress passed a law to enable US military personnel living on bases in the US to vote in local and state elections.

The position of non-voting delegate to Congress from the District was reestablished in 1971. The delegate cannot vote for bills before the House, nor floor votes, but may vote for some procedural and committee matters. In 1973, the District of Columbia Home Rule Act reestablished local government after a hundred-year gap, with regular local elections for mayor and other posts. They do not elect a US senator. People seeking standard representation for the 600,000 District of Columbia residents describe their status as being disfranchised in relation to the federal government. They do vote in presidential elections.

Until 2009, no other NATO (US military allies) or OECD country (US industrialized allies) had disfranchised citizens of their respective national capitals for national legislature elections. No US state prohibits residents of capitals from voting in state elections either, and their cities are contained within regular representative state and congressional districts.[citation needed]

Puerto Rico

U.S. federal law applies to Puerto Rico, although Puerto Rico is not a state. Due to the Federal Relations Act of 1950, all federal laws that are "not locally inapplicable" are automatically the law of the land in Puerto Rico (39 Stat. 954, 48 USCA 734).[1] According to ex-Chief of the Puerto Rico Supreme Court Jose Trias Monge, "no federal law has ever been found to be locally inapplicable to Puerto Rico.[2] Puerto Ricans were conscripted into the U.S. armed forces; they have fought in every war since they became U.S. citizens in 1917.[3] Puerto Rico residents are subject to most U.S. taxes.

Contrary to common misconception, residents of Puerto Rico pay some U.S. federal taxes[4] and contribute to Social Security, Medicare and other programs through payroll taxes. But, these American citizens have no Congressional representation nor do they vote in U.S. presidential elections.

Juan Torruella and other scholars argue that the U.S. national-electoral process is not a democracy due to issues related to lack of voting rights in Puerto Rico and representation.[5] Both the Puerto Rican Independence Party and the New Progressive Party reject Commonwealth status. The remaining political organization, the Popular Democratic Party has officially stated that it favors fixing the remaining "deficits of democracy" that the Clinton and Bush administrations publicly recognized through Presidential Task Force Reports.


Citizens of Denmark are in general not allowed to vote in Danish elections if they reside outside of the country for more than two years.[6]