Voting Rights in the Amendment Process Series of constitutional amendments expanded electoral access –By 1960s most Americans of voting age held the legal right to participate in federal elections. –The 15th Amendment (1870) extended the franchise to black males, but many could not exercise this vote in parts of the South. –Voting Rights Act reestablished federal oversight of southern elections.
Voting Rights in the Amendment Process Women’s suffrage also slow process –Wyoming allowed women to vote in national elections in 1890. –Eleven other states gave women the right to vote by 1916. Most were western states. –In 1920 the 19th Amendment gave women the right to vote in every state. Stanton and Anthony, National Archives, 1180-1920
International Comparisons Overvote: –Ballots that have more than one choice for an office, whether because the voter voted for more than one candidate or wrote in a name as well as making a mark Voting-age population: –All the people in the U.S. over the age of 18, including those who may not be legally eligible to vote All of these things contribute to the underestimation of voters.
Why Has American Turnout Declined? Puzzle: Why has turnout declined when developments have led us to expect an increase in turnout? –Voting Rights Act –24 th Amendment –Poll taxes and literacy tests abolished –Shortened state and local residency requirements –Simplified registration –Bilingual ballots –Easier absentee voting –Socioeconomic changes – Younger people don’t vote as much, but educated people do. While we have a younger electorate we have a much more educated electorate. –So why the decline??????
Is Low Turnout a Problem? 3 arguments say it is not. –High turnout related to strife and conflict. If relatively no conflict, we should expect low turnout. –Quality of electoral decisions is higher if a special effort is not made to increase turnout. On average, nonvoters are less educated than voters. –Elections are charades. Real decisions are made by elites. Voting is solely to placate the masses. So elections do not matter. There is very little evidence to support this argument.