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What is Disfranchisement?

Updated on November 30, 2016

Disfranchisement is the act of depriving a person of any right, privilege, or power. The term usually refers to depriving a citizen of the right to vote or hold office. Persons may be disfranchised if they lose their citizenship, if they fail to register when required, or if they are convicted of certain crimes. Many people are disfranchised temporarily when they move, until they meet new residence requirements.

Sometimes disfranchisement is the result of political manipulation (such as gerrymandering of electoral district boundaries) or intimidation of voters. It may also come about through the alteration of suffrage qualifications. Poll taxes and other discriminatory voting requirements have disfranchised many Negro citizens in the southern United States since the late 19th century. They were outlawed on the federal level by the 24th Amendment to the U. S. Constitution in 1964.

In Britain the term "disfranchisement" is often applied to Parliament's depriving a constituency of representation in the House of Commons, either through a redistribution of seats or because of corruption within the constituency.

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