2 The History of Voting Rights Today, the size of the American electorate is greater than 200 million people. Nearly all citizens at least 18 years of age can qualify to vote.Early 1800’sReligious, property, & tax payment requirements are eliminated187015th Amendment bans (in theory) race-based voting requirements192019th Amendment bans the denial of the right to vote based on sex196123rd Amendment grants citizens of DC the right to vote for president1965Voting Rights Act of 1965 guarantees right to vote for minorities1964The 24th Amendment eliminates the poll tax.1971The 26th Amendment lowers the voting age to 18.
3 Election Laws in the States The Framers allowed the states to determine voter requirements and did not create federal restrictions.Eventually, restrictions have been added to protect people’s civil rights.The States cannot violate federal law in setting suffrage qualifications.They can, however, set qualifications that are not listed in the Constitution.
4 Prisoners, parolees and probationers Probationers & paroleesProbationers onlyAll with felonies can vote upon completing their sentenceOnly some with felonies can voteNo felons can vote
5 Voter Qualifications Key Terms Key Concepts Transients = people who don’t plan on staying in the state long enough to become a legal residentRegistration = procedure designed to prevent voting by people who are not eligible; voters must register before they are allowed to vote.Purging = eliminating people from the voter registry who are no longer eligible to vote (e.g. dead, felon)Poll book = copy of voter registry for a precinctLiteracy = ability to read and writePoll tax = special tax required to vote; used to prevent minorities from voting because they could not payKey ConceptsTo vote, people must meet certain requirementsAll states except ND require voter registrationVoter registration in the US is voluntary
6 Universal Voter Qualifications Citizenship is required in all states, but this is not mandated by the ConstitutionResidence in the state is requiredCollege students living ‘away’ can sometimes vote in their college towns instead of having to go home or get absentee ballotsAgeVoters 18 or over must be allowed to voteStates could allow those under 18 to voteStill, most people don’t vote
7 Historical Voter Qualifications Literacy & Poll TaxHistorically, used to keep minorities (esp. African-Americans) from votingLiteracy:Sometimes required that voters be able to read; others required reading AND writingGrandfather clauses created to allow illiterate whites to voteRequirement banned by Voting Rights Act Amendments of 1970; ban confirmed by Oregon v. MitchellPoll TaxUsed to disenfranchise African-Americans; gradually eliminated by 1960’s, banned by 24th Amendment
9 Current Voter Qualifications Registration49 states (except ND) require registrationLists are reviewed and purged periodicallyCriticism of registration requirement:Voter turnout decreased when registration became mandatoryCan discourage the poor and uneducated from votingDeadlinesSome states allow same-day registration (register to vote and vote on the same day)Most states have cut-offs (20-30 days before election)
10 Other Voter Qualifications Registration (continued)Motor Voter Law (1995)Requires that all citizens be allowed to register or make changes when applying for a driver’s licenseAllows voter registration by mailRequires that forms be available at government officesMiscellaneous QualificationsMental ‘fitness’ – people in mental institutions generally can’t voteClean criminal record – many states ban felons from votingMilitary discharge – some states ban those who are dishonorably discharged from voting
11 Suffrage & Civil Rights Key TermsGerrymandering = Drawing electoral district boundaries in a way that limits the power of certain voter groups (e.g. minorities)Injunction = A court order that either forces or limits the performance of an act by an individual or public officialPreclearance = approval by Justice Department of any new election lawsKey Concepts15th amendment (1870) was not fully enforced until 1965States found ways of getting around it until Civil Rights legislation was passed in 1950s-1970s.
12 Major Civil Rights Legislation Civil Rights Act of 1957Allowed the federal government (through Federal Courts) to help prevent voter discriminationCivil Rights Act of 1960Created a federal office that helped correct conditions that caused voter discriminationCivil Rights Act of 1964Banned the use of literacy tests and voter registration requirements to discriminate against any voters
13 Major Civil Rights Legislation Voting Rights Act of 1965Made the 15th Amendment applicable to ALL electionsBanned poll taxes and literacy tests for 5 yearsRequired that any further election laws in states where most people had not voted in 1964 get preclearance from the Justice DepartmentLocation of polling placesDistrict boundariesDeadlines for voter registrationAmendments to the VRA of 1965Extended VRA Act to more states (1970)Made ban on literacy tests permanent (1975)Required that ballot materials be printed in multiple languages, where deemed necessary.
15 Gerrymandering & White Primaries Named after Eldbridge Gerry ( ), governor of MassachusettsGerry signed a bill in 1812 that changed districts in his state to benefit his partyUsed to break up certain voting groups in a city/county to diminish their voting strength.