How Many Americans Can't Vote? Citizens Can Be Deemed "Ineligible" For A Number Of Reasons
As with every election, the prospect of low voter turnout looms heavily over the politically-conscious as we rapidly approach the election of our next president. It's true that voter turnout, even in presidential election years, is often disappointingly low, and that there are millions more people eligible to vote than are registered. But what about those Americans who can't vote, whether it be due to age, immigration status, or criminal record?
In January of this year, the total U.S. population was 322,762,018, according to end-of-year estimates released by the U.S. Census Bureau. According to Statistic Brain, who acquired their data from the Census, there were 218,959,000 people eligible to vote as reported in late August 2016. National voter registration totals rose to 200 million in late October as record-breaking voter registration drives bring more people than ever before into the ritual of voting in America. That leaves nearly 123 million, more than a third of the population, who can't vote — a number that includes people below voting age, people who are currently incarcerated, those who were formerly incarcerated but haven't had their voting rights restored, non-citizens, and people who are deemed mentally incapable of voting.
This landmark in voter registration comes on the backs of conspiracy theories about registration fraud that have made their way to the top of the Republican ticket. During the last presidential debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, and again at a rally the following day, the Republican nominee rehashed a popular (and completely) incorrect theory about Democrats committing fraud and registering "millions" of dead people to vote. Trump's line of reasoning continues that some of these fraudulent voting zombies proceed to vote on Election Day, a dog-whistle used by conservatives in states like my home, North Carolina, to pass constitutionally-unsound and wildly discriminatory bills like our recently-overturned voter ID law.
With nearly two-thirds of the country now registered to vote in a voting bloc Pew dubbed "the most diverse in U.S. history," the thinly-veiled discriminatory nature of Trump's argument and his supporters consumption of it is unsurprising. Liberal and progressive groups have been pushing for higher levels of voter registration among minority groups since Barack Obama became the Democratic party's nominee in 2008, and eight years later, that dream seems to be on its way to fulfillment. With these historic numbers, more people than ever will have the opportunity to cast their ballots, and unfortunately, a lot of Americans are really threatened by it.