Share of Adults with Voting Rights, U.S. & Britain, 1790 & 1930

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Shares of the adult population with voting rights, 1790, 1910-1930, for the United States and Britain. Includes statistics on disenfranchised felons in the U.S. in 2004.

In 1790, the electoral franchise was much broader in the United States and in Britain. In the United States in 1790, about 65% of adult white males had full voting rights in public elections. The electorate share among all U.S. adults was about 27%. In Britain, only about 8% of adults had full voting rights.

The 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibited denial of the right to vote based on sex. In 1920, prior to the ratification of the 19th Amendment, 36% of women lived in states that did not allow women full voting rights.

The 19th Amendment did not affect the denial of voting rights to adult non-citizens and blacks in the South. Adult non-citizens and adult blacks in the South accounted for 10.6% and 7.3% of all U.S. adults, respectively.

Despite the large, rapid expansion of the U.S. electorate through the 19th Amendment, the U.S. electorate about 1930 was narrower than the electorate in Britain. In Britain in 1929, 97% of adults had the right to vote. The corresponding figure in the U.S. was about 82% (accounting for non-citizen ineligibility and informal disenfranchisement of blacks in the South).

Many U.S. states have passed laws denying the right to vote to persons convicted of a felony. In 2004, about 2.5% of U.S. adults (5.4 million persons) were denied the right to vote as a result of a felony conviction.

Dataset sheets:

  • electorate: estimates of shares of adults with full voting rights, accounting for exclusions of various demographic groups

Related datasets:

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