A Brief History of Voter Disenfranchisement Laws in the U.S.


  • Christian Robinson


Following false claims of voter fraud during the 2020 presidential election, several conservative states sought to pass laws designed to limit voter fraud. However, these laws quite clearly restrict the electorate and disproportionally affect the political participation of minority, lower-class, and female voters. The trend of restricting voting rights in the U.S., whether implicitly or explicitly, is not new. Despite claiming to prioritize democratic participation, the U.S. has a history of laws that have limited eligible voters based on race, class, and gender. This is apparent through a close analysis of U.S. voting laws beginning with eligibility as determined by the Constitution and examining how that definition has been molded as the electorate slowly expanded to encompass African Americans and women following the Civil War and the Suffrage movement, respectively. Additionally, this warrants examining how this eligibility was enforced in practice. For example, African Americans were given the ability to vote following the passage of the 15th Amendment. However, voting was not a reality for many African Americans in the South who were unable to register, intimidated, and forced to comply with laws designed to keep them from voting all the way until the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Comparing the progression of voting laws to reality reveals a trend of disenfranchisement in the U.S. that can be directly connected to laws promulgated following the 2020 election.