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Voting Rights in the United States: Voter Restrictions

This guide serves as a starting point for legal research regarding voting rights in the United States.

Who can vote today?

Ostensibly today any US Citizen 18 years of age or older can cast a ballot in a federal election. Realistically, there are many exceptions to this generalized principle, including some "legitimate" exceptions according to the federal government. Congress has enacted legislation to try and curb illegal voter suppression tactics. The Supreme Court has occasionally ruled to protect marginalized groups from targeted suppression. Still, there are many quasi-legal restrictions adopted in states to limit voter access today. While some voter suppression tactics are being challenged in the courts, many features of our voting system inherently discriminate against racial minorities, non-English speakers, economically precarious people, and incarcerated individuals among many others. 


Brennan Center for Justice Resources

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The Brennan Center for Justice is a "non-partisan law and policy institute" hosting news updates and more regarding voter suppression in the US.

Is "Voter Fraud" a substantial issue?

Geographic Exclusions: Territories and the District of Columbia

Voting Rights and Incarceration

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Contemporary Obstructions to Casting a Ballot

As outlined in The State of Voting Rights by Gilda R. Daniels, some current voter suppression tactics include: 

  • Polling place closures
  • Voter ID laws
  • Language barriers
  • Voter registration
  • Voter purges
  • Felon disenfranchisement
  • Redistricting

Other obstacles related to casting a ballot

Voter ID Laws

Voting for Noncitizens

Citizenship and Voting: Inextricably Linked?

SNCC Poster "One Man, One Vote," Black man in a straw hat sitting on a porch. Poster from GA


Historic Obstructions to Casting a Ballot

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Voter suppression tactics in the United States have been wide ranging and devastating to the democratic project. Strategies to repress enfranchisement in the United States continue to evolve and challenge the understanding that one citizen has one vote. Some key historical voter suppression tactics used historically to disenfranchise Black Americans include:

The Movement to Abolish the Electoral College