10 Ways the U.S. Has Kept Citizens From Voting

Pruning Names From the Voter Rolls
Voters wait in line in Riviera Beach, Florida in 2004. Before the 2000 presidential election, state officials had "ineligible" people deleted off the voter registration rolls -- which disproportionately affected black voters. Mario Tama/Getty Images

Before the 2000 presidential election, state officials in Republican-controlled Florida hired a private firm to go through the state's voter registration rolls and delete names of people who were deceased, registered in multiple places, convicted felons or declared mentally incompetent in a court proceeding. But as a subsequent investigation by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights detailed, the hired checkers made numerous mistakes, and deleted many voters who were fully eligible.

The commission report doesn't specify how many voters were deprived of their rights unfairly, but the deleted voters disproportionately were African-Americans, who tend to vote Democrat. In the Miami area, 65 percent of those deleted were blacks, who represented just 20.4 percent of the population. Whites only made up 16.6 percent of the "purge list," even though they amounted to 77.6 percent of the public [source: USCCR].

The commission didn't find evidence that officials in Florida conspired to disenfranchise black voters [source: USCCR]. But many African-Americans didn't see it that way. "I'll never forget the people that came up to me and said, 'You let them steal our votes,'" U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, a Democrat, told the Huffington Post in 2015 [source: Conroy].

Florida has one of the toughest felon voting bans in the U.S. Anyone convicted is automatically banned from voting for life, and can't be reinstated unless the governor and the state clemency board agree. As a result, more than 1.6 million Floridians — about 9 percent of the electorate — are shut out [source: Sweeney et al.].