As an example, Voter ID laws are disfavored by the Democratic party in the US because those laws lead to the disfranchisement of minority and low-income voters. But at the same time minority and low-income voters tend to vote for the Democratic party, so they're strongly incentivised to do so.

But does the same pattern hold in regions where disfranchised voters generally favour right-wing parties in elections? Or do right-wing organisations take their place there, since they're the ones who are incentivised to increase voter participation?

  • How are you defining left and right wing in the context of this question?
    – origimbo
    Commented Mar 27, 2018 at 23:34
  • @origimbo social left wing, rather than economic Commented Mar 28, 2018 at 0:08
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    You're still going to have problems with definitions though. E.g. Does the alleged situation of arab disenfranchisement in Israel fit your narrative, with leftists supporting people who might then vote for socially conservative Islamist parties. Or is that still enlightened self interest, since the two groups act in coalition against the right-wing, populist government?
    – origimbo
    Commented Mar 28, 2018 at 10:22
  • 2
    Is this question limited to places where there are basically legitimate democratic elections? Or, does it include places with one party states that hold elections (which is probably the predominant situation where left wing forces are in control but elections are not fair in some respect)?
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Apr 27, 2018 at 20:40
  • 2
    How sure are you that the causation isn't the other way? That the disenfranchised people favor a particular party because they fight against suppression?
    – Geobits
    Commented May 1, 2018 at 10:15

4 Answers 4


Disenfranchisement is a pretty rare political tactic on either the left or the right outside the United States, which has close to the lowest voter turnout rates among places that have genuine democratic elections.


For example, even Iran has higher voter turnout than the United States. In Iran, the ruling faction tends to manipulate elections (which aren't necessarily fair, but aren't a one party state either) by disqualifying candidates, rather than by limiting the franchise.

But, it is challenging to definitively classify either the ruling faction or the opposition in Iran on a Western style left-right axis. The ruling faction tends to be authoritarian, and the opposition tends to favor greater personal liberty, but, for example, a significant portion of Iranian voters inclined to support opposition candidates consists of very socially conservative Sunni Muslims.

Disenfranchisement As "Tribal" In Europe

Where there is disenfranchisement, it tends to be more "tribal" than partisan.

Most countries deny the vote to non-citizens, who are a substantial part of the resident population in some countries, and unlike the United States, most of the countries do not have "birthright citizenship". So, in countries including Japan and Germany, one can be a second or third generation immigrant and still be denied citizenship. (In Japan, this has little political impact because the percentage of the population that is Korean is so small.)

It is difficult to assign a partisan slant to these instances of disenfranchisement because, regardless of who instituted them in the first place, they tend to persist across left leaning and right leaning governments over time. Left learning parties, pretty much across the board, tend to be more pro-immigration than right leaning parties, so in that sense, the left tends not to use disenfranchisement, while the right does.

But, assigning partisan affiliation to the immigrant communities disenfranchised by these policies is also problematic.

On one hand, on a host of social issues, Muslim immigrants in Europe tend to be more conservative than native born populations, and tend not to be particularly socialistic in their economic policy views.

But, on the other other hand, Muslim immigrants in Europe have tended to affiliate and align in electoral politics with parties of the left, because of the Christian nationalist, anti-immigrant and anti-civil rights positions taken by parties of the right.


Arguably, one of the better cases of left wing suppression of a right wing minority's voting rights is in Burma, where the right wing military regime was replaced by a democratically elected regime led by its long time, Nobel Peace Prize winning, leader who was an opposition leader for decades.

While her regime is still quite authoritarian, it is arguably, in its roots, a left wing regime.

This regime denied civic rights to the Muslim Rohinga minority which is arguably a right wing leaning minority. But, the trouble with even this example is that the existing arguably left wing regime is continuing the policies put in place by the military junta, a right wing regime, before them.

So, again, voter suppression presents as a more "tribal" than partisan practice.

Southeast Asia

Many countries in Southeast Asia have generally conservative leaning Chinese minorities with many members who are denied the franchise on a "tribal" immigration based basis.

But, again, this disenfranchisement has been largely a bipartisan matter persisting across changes in the political leanings of the ruling governments over time.

The United States

It isn't unfair to view disenfranchisement in the United States as better described by a "tribal" model than a partisan one. But, this is somewhat obscured in places like Alabama, where voter suppression is greatest, because the identity between race and partisan affiliation is so strong that it is hard to distinguish racial/tribal voter suppression from partisan voter suppression.

  • Scholarly support for tribal as opposed to partisan political motivation (in general): marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2018/05/…
    – ohwilleke
    Commented May 3, 2018 at 5:53
  • "But, it is challenging to definitively classify either the ruling faction or the opposition in Iran on a Western style left-right axis" - it's often challenging to classify Western political parties on the Western style left-right axis too. One axis doesn't seem to be sufficient.
    – Lag
    Commented May 4, 2018 at 6:58

Laws are typically state-wide, affecting all groups at once, so when a party sues the state, the party almost always has something to recover from the investment; even if just a few more gerrymandered statehouse slots or mayors.

In terms of specific local efforts, left-leaning voters enjoy more disfranchisement efforts, so there's not a lot of control samples to compare. If a state with voterID laws were to stop accepting military or firearm-owner IDs, it would be surprising if right-leaning orgs let it pass without objection.

There were efforts by the bush 2004 campaign to coordinate church vans, seniors and the rural poor (car less), and polling places. Such efforts are probably common.

In short, it happens to left-leaning demographics more, but all parties want to get out the vote with favorable demographics for self-evident reasons.

  • 1
    what is gotv? What does it mean
    – user4951
    Commented Apr 29, 2018 at 1:55
  • 1
    @J.Chang: Get Out The Vote
    – dandavis
    Commented Apr 29, 2018 at 9:26

Disenfranchisement takes many forms.

For example, when Obama and the democrats forced Obamacare through congress in 2009, with the republic party pretty much excluded from the crafting of the bill, a lot of conservative and right wing people felt disenfranchised - a major change to their lives (that cost them quite a bit of money) was made without their input.

Consequently, they went to the polls in record numbers in 2010 and elected representatives who ran on a 'stop Obama' platform. This was led by a right wing organization called the tea party (taxed enough already). And, for better or for worse, that's what they did - Obama was effectively neutered after 2010, and accomplished little in the way of meaningful legislation after that election.

It is interesting to note that these disenfranchised voters weren't poor people who couldn't vote, they were working class people who hadn't bothered to vote... until sufficient motivation was presented.

We may see something similar in the 2018 midterm US elections.

  • 5
    Making political decisions which affect people negatively is not "disenfanchisement". Disenfranchisement is when you take measures to prevent people from voting. Excluding elected representatives from political processes might be considered retroactive disenfranchisement of their voters in the past election, but it's not what this question is asking about. It's asking about left-wing organizations fighting disenfranchisement when it is against their election interests, not causing it.
    – Philipp
    Commented Apr 30, 2018 at 9:57
  • 1
    You're narrowing the definition of 'disenfranchisement' to meet your political goal. Disenfranchisement is when people believe that the system is not serving them. As far as 2009 goes, ignoring a large segment of the voters is effectively nullifying their votes. Whether one excludes voters by preventing them from voting, or by blocking their duly elected representatives, is irrelevant.
    – tj1000
    Commented Apr 30, 2018 at 16:30
  • I don't have any "political goal" here. I am just pointing out that you are not answering the question which was asked here.
    – Philipp
    Commented Apr 30, 2018 at 16:36
  • 1
    @tj1000 In political discussions, "disenfranchisement" has a very specific definition, as Philipp linked to. It doesn't mean "I'm unhappy with the system" or even "I participated and my candidate lost" - it means "I was unable to participate".
    – Bobson
    Commented Apr 30, 2018 at 16:39
  • 1
    @Bobson Traditional disenfranchisement is preventing the act of voting, but there is also making a cast vote not be counted, and now making a counted vote ineffective has been argued re Gerrymanding. &tj1000 I think this is normally called disregard rather than disenfranchise, and while it is also an important issue in a democracy I don't think it is on topic for this question.
    – user9389
    Commented Apr 30, 2018 at 18:08

Opposition to Voter ID laws in America can be seen as a left-wing attempt to disenfranchise right-wing voters because one of the major concerns is that alien (as in from a different country, not different planet) residents may be voting, and in America aliens generally support the Democratic party. Each alien that votes then is likely to cancel the vote of a legal right-wing voter, and that right-wing voter is then disenfranchised.

Whether this is really the motivation of the left-wing is impossible to discern as they of course would not say openly that it is.

  • 1
    Except voter ID doesn't actually verify citizenship. Commented May 2, 2018 at 14:36
  • That's true, it is only one step in a multi-step process to prevent voter-fraud like other advanced democratic countries do. I didn't want to make the answer a long argument, but the fact that the American left-wing constantly tells Americans we should do something because we're the only industrialized democracy that doesn't, but then wants to the the hold-out on this issue, is telling.
    – Readin
    Commented May 2, 2018 at 14:39
  • Opposition to Voter ID laws in America can be seen as a right-wing attempt to disenfranchise left-wing voters because lower voter turnout favors the republican party. Whether this is really the motivation of the left-wing is possible to discern as courts have agreed this is the case via judgments and various republican leaders have admitted it.
    – user1530
    Commented May 7, 2018 at 16:44
  • When you have a solution in search of an actual problem (voter impersonation), which conveniently disenfranchises many, many, many times more voters than cases of fraud that have ever existed, the opposition is more logical than "telling." Commented Apr 18, 2022 at 16:05

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