What a really big word. It has become something of a buzz word in the 21st century, and has been heavily mentioned in almost every election since 2000.
It basically means, people's votes are being denied, or not being counted.
The latest this was heard was in Washington state. Mike Huckabee, this morning on the Today show, mentioned he felt his voters were disenfranchised at the Primary on Saturday. Or rather, after the primary, when party leaders stopped reporting votes with 87% precints reporting, and declared McCain the leader--even though it had been close, and from my recollection, Huckabee had been leading for most of the afternoon.
This is crucial, because while I think the "religious right" are wrong-headed and intolerant; I think the Republican party chiefs/"deciders" are verging on "corrupt and power-mongering". This is especially true under the leadership of Bush/Cheney (also influenced by Rove/DeLay/Rumsfeld). I have been saying for 10 years now (since I discovered it myself) that the Religious Right/evangelicals/fundy's were just pawns to the Republican establishment. They hyped up social issues and used propoganda, myth and fear to cement their support (a great argument against ignorance, not thinking for yourself, propensity towards myth and "literalism").
Now, maybe I am naieve--but so be it--but I don't believe in "out and out" conspiracy theories. Nor do I believe the Republican establishment is "being evil". I believe they are doing what they believe (and this is probably always the case) to be right. The only issue is what they are willing to do to make that happen. You see it is messy living in a democracy. Everyone gets a voice, regardless of education, ability, work ethic, etc. That means voters have to be courted and what one person sees or thinks is best, is not always what happens. But with the neo-cons or whatever you want to call them in charge--they believe it is OK to use power to get across the greater prinicple. This is one reason why fundy's tend to love them and vote for them. Again, the propensity for myth,--standing tall, making a stand, standing for something . . . I could go on. The only problem is what happens when it is someone else who holds the power, or wants to make a stand. That is the major problem with Republicans and Fundy's--they never seem able to put the someone else's shoes on.
So what probably happened in Washington state was that the party leaders, in all their wisdom, felt it really would be better for their party, their state and the nation; if McCain had a solid victory; especialy after Huckabee won 2 of the 3 contests for Reps. In their (misguided) wisdom, they probably felt justified that the count was trending towards McCain, so lets opp out of counting anymore, declare a McCain victory and get about shutting Huckabee up. Good intentions (misguided and undemocratic though the result and actions were) but fundy's and Republicans both tend to believe it is the outcome not the means that matters.
Only problem is Huckabee is no dummy, and has already had lawyers file to restart vote counting and get to a conclusion. My gut feeling tells me the count would probably have gone for McCain anyway--but it is the PRINCIPLE that matters. It is the appearance of transparency that matters in a democracy. I hope Huckabee can successfully fight this. I don't care much about the results--I won't vote for either of them in November anyway--but I DO care about our democracy. One of the reasons people have been turning out in droves this election year, is because they are tired of being cynical and/or "myth-injected". We want to participate, but we want it to matter. We don't want to be trumped up into voting one way because someone waves a flag and shows a picture of a kneeling soldier; nor do we want our vote, our support and our voice to be taken for granted.
It is amazing to me that Obama and Huckabee are both doing so well this year. They are both from oppsite ends of the political spectrum; but I think for the first time in a long time--people are saying "That is what I would want to be like, if I were a candidate." and for that reason alone--disenfranshicement should not be tolerted in a democracy.