Presentation on theme: "Americans vote less than any other people in Western societies. Just half of registered voters actually vote in presidential elections, and many fewer."— Presentation transcript:
Americans vote less than any other people in Western societies. Just half of registered voters actually vote in presidential elections, and many fewer vote in state and local elections. Today, the only restrictions on voting involve the insane, convicted felons, and the young – In the past, women, paupers, African-Americans, Native Americans, Asian immigrants, and other groups were denied the right to vote. – There were religious tests, property qualifications, literacy tests, poll taxes, and exclusions on the grounds of race and sex.
The United States was the first nation to expand the vote to virtually all white men, but it has also undergone periods in which voting rights were restricted, and it was one of the last Western nations to guarantee the vote to all citizens.
The basic principle that governed voting in colonial America was that voters should have a "stake in society." Leading colonists associated democracy with disorder and mob rule, and believed that the vote should be restricted to those who owned property or paid taxes. – Each of the thirteen colonies required voters either to own a certain amount of land or personal property, or to pay a specified amount in taxes.
Many colonies imposed other restrictions on voting, including religious tests. Catholics were barred from voting in five colonies and Jews in four. In frontier areas, seventy to eighty percent of white men could vote. But in some cities, the percentage was just forty to fifty percent.
The American Revolution was fought in part over the issue of voting. The Revolutionaries rejected the British argument that representation in Parliament could be virtual. – Meaning that English members of Parliament could adequately represent the interests of the colonists Instead, the Revolutionaries argued that government derived its legitimacy from the consent of the governed.
During the period immediately following the Revolution, some states replaced property qualifications with taxpaying requirements. – "no taxation without representation." Other states allowed anyone who served in the army or militia to vote. Vermont was the first state to eliminate all property and taxpaying qualifications for voting.
By 1790, all states had eliminated religious requirements for voting. ◦ Approximately sixty to seventy percent of adult white men could now vote. During this time, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Vermont permitted free African-Americans to vote.
The U.S. constitution left the issue of voting rights up to the states Constitution said those entitled to vote for the “most numerous branch of the state legislature” could vote for members of the house of representatives
During the first half of the nineteenth century, the election process changed dramatically. – Voting by voice was replaced by voting by written ballot. – The abolition of property qualifications for voting and office holding. By 1830 ten states permitted white manhood suffrage without qualification In 1860, just five states limited suffrage to taxpayers and only two still imposed property qualifications. After 1840, a number of states, mainly in the Midwest, allowed immigrants who intended to become citizens to vote.
Pressure for expansion of voting rights came from… – Property less men – territories eager to attract settlers – political parties seeking to broaden their base Ironically, the period that saw the advent of universal white manhood suffrage also saw new restrictions imposed on voting by African- Americans. Every new state that joined the Union after 1819 explicitly denied blacks the right to vote. – In 1855, only Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont allowed African-Americans to vote without significant restrictions.
In New Jersey (the one state that had allowed women property holders to vote) women lost the right to vote After 1830 interest in voting registration increased
The transition from property qualifications to universal white manhood suffrage occurred gradually, without violence and with surprisingly little dissension, except in Rhode Island, where lack of progress toward democratization provoked an episode known as the Dorr War. In 1841, Rhode Island, still operating under a Royal Charter granted in 1663, restricted suffrage to landowners and their eldest sons. – The charter lacked a bill of rights and grossly underrepresented growing industrial cities in the state legislature
In 1841, Thomas W. Dorr, a Harvard-educated attorney, organized an extralegal convention to frame a new state constitution and abolish voting restrictions. The state's governor declared Dorr and his supporters guilty of insurrection, proclaimed a state of emergency, and called out the state militia. Dorr tried unsuccessfully to capture the state arsenal at Providence. – He was arrested, found guilty of high treason, and sentenced to life imprisonment at hard labor. – To appease popular resentment, the governor pardoned Dorr the next year, and the state adopted a new constitution in 1843
This constitution extended the vote to all taxpaying native-born adult males ◦ Including African Americans ◦ But it imposed property requirements and lengthy residence requirements on immigrants. Rhode Island was unusual in having a large urban, industrial, and foreign-born working class
The Civil War and Reconstruction Although Abraham Lincoln had spoken about extending the vote to black soldiers, opposition to granting suffrage to African-American men was strong in the North. Between 1863 and 1870, fifteen Northern states and territories rejected proposals to extend suffrage to African-Americans. During Reconstruction a growing number of Republicans began to favor extending the vote to African-American men. – Many believed that African-Americans needed the vote to protect their rights. – Some felt that black suffrage would allow the Republican party to build a base in the South.
The Reconstruction Act of 1867 required the former Confederate states to approve new constitutions. – Which were to be ratified by an electorate that included black as well as white men. In 1868, the Republican party went further and called for a Fifteenth Amendment that would prohibit states from denying the vote based on race or previous condition of servitude. A variety of methods were used by Southern whites to reduce the level of black voting. – Including, violence in which hundreds of African- Americans were murdered, property qualification laws, gerrymandering, and fraud
In 1890, Mississippi pioneered new methods to prevent African-Americans from voting. – Including, lengthy residence requirements, poll taxes, literacy tests, property requirements, cumbersome registration procedures, and laws disenfranchising voters for minor criminal offenses. Because of this, black voting was drastically decreased. In Mississippi, just 9,000 of 147,000 African- Americans of voting age were qualified to vote. In Louisiana, the number of black registered voters fell from 130,000 to 1,342. Grandfather clauses in these states exempted whites from all residence, poll tax, literacy, and property requirements if their ancestors had voted prior to enactment of the Fifteenth Amendment.
Fears of corruption and of fraudulent voting led a number of Northern and Western states to enact "reforms" similar to those in the South. – Reforms included pre-election registration, long residence qualifications, revocation of state laws that permitted non-citizens to vote, disfranchisement of felons, and adoption of the Australian ballot (which required voters to place a mark by the name of the candidate they wished to vote for). By the 1920s, thirteen Northern and Western states barred illiterate adults from voting Many Western states prohibited Asians from voting.
1944- Smith v. Allwright – U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Texas's Democratic party could not restrict membership to whites only and bar blacks from voting in the party's primary. In 1946, a presidentially appointed National Committee on Civil Rights called for abolition of poll taxes and for federal action to protect the voting rights of African-Americans and Native Americans. At the end of the 1950s, seven Southern states used literacy tests to keep blacks from voting. – Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina South Carolina, and Virginia Five states used poll taxes to prevent blacks from registering. – Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, Texas, and Virginia
The Civil Rights Act of 1957 allowed the Justice Department to seek injunctions and file suits in voting rights cases. – It only increased voting by about 200,000. To bring the issue of voting rights to national attention, Martin Luther King, Jr., launched a voter registration drive in Selma, Alabama, in early – For seven weeks, King led hundreds of Selma's black residents to the county courthouse to register to vote. – Nearly 2,000 black demonstrators, including King, were jailed
On March 7, 1965, black voting-rights demonstrators, lead by King, prepared to march from Selma to Montgomery, fifty miles away. – As they crossed a bridge spanning the Alabama River, 200 state police with tear gas, nightsticks, and whips attacked them. – The march resumed on March 21 with federal protection – "Segregation's got to fall... you never can jail us all.'‘ On March 25, a crowd of 25,000 gathered at the state capitol to celebrate the march's completion. – Martin Luther King, Jr., addressed the crowd and called for an end to segregated schools, poverty, and voting discrimination – "I know you are asking today, 'How long will it take?'... How long? Not long, because no lie can live forever.''
On January 23, 1965, the states completed ratification of the Twenty-fourth Amendment to the Constitution barring a poll tax in federal elections. – At that time, five Southern states still had poll taxes. On August 6, 1965, President Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act, which prohibited literacy tests and sent federal examiners to seven Southern states to register black voters. Within a year, 450,000 Southern blacks registered to vote.
The Supreme Court ruled that literacy tests were illegal in areas where schools had been segregated, struck down laws restricting the vote to property-owners or tax-payers, and held that lengthy residence rules for voting were unconstitutional. Baker v. Carr – The court also ruled in the "one-man, one-vote“. – States could not give rural voters a disproportionate sway in state legislatures. Meanwhile, the states eliminated laws that disenfranchised paupers.
After WW II, a new generation of Latinos returned to America from their oversea duties. – They came back with new ideas about their freedoms as citizens, particularly their right to vote. After the wars, Mexican-Americans veterans attended many local and national colleges and universities. – Armed with the weapon of education, the veterans formed organizations that advocated for Hispanic voting rights in many parts of the country.
The G.I. Bill Act of June 22, 1944 (Servicemen’s Readjustment Act )- put higher education within the reach of thousands of Chicano veterans. ◦ The Veterans' Readjustment Assistance Act of provided similar privileges to Korean War veterans
The American G.I. Forum, founded in March 1948, was created because a local funeral home denied a decorated, Latino veteran to be buried there. The Mexican American Political Association (MAPA), founded in Fresno, California was founded in 1959 and drew up a plan for direct electoral politics. – MAPA soon became the primary political voice for the Mexican-American community of California. One of the primary Latino organizations contributing to increased Latino voter registration was the Southwest Voter Registration Education Project (SVREP). – the SVREP conducted 2,200 voter registration campaigns in fourteen states and initiated “Get-the-vote-out” campaigns throughout the Southwest.
In 1981, the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Educational Fund (NALEO) was established to promote the integration of Latino immigrants into American society and encourage them to become citizens so that they might participate in the electoral process. The efforts of MAPA, SVREP, NALEO, CSO and several dynamic individuals helped increase in the Latino electorate that took place between 1960 and 2000.
Voting Rights Act (1965) – On January 23, 1964, the U.S. Congress ratified the Twenty-fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution – The Voting Rights Act suspended or banned literacy tests and other racially discriminatory devices, and it guaranteed direct federal supervision of voter registration, voting procedures, and elections in seven Southern states and several non-Southern states as well. – The Voting Rights Act of 1965 gave African Americans access to the voting booth in places where access had previously been denied to them. The law was so effective that a quarter of a million new Black voters had been registered to vote by the end of the year.
The Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF) soon began to lobby intensely for the extension of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) to Latinos. – Congress responded to these lobbying efforts in 1975 by amending the Voting Rights Act to include provisions that affected Latinos and “minority-language citizens.” According to census information, the Latino population reached 35,305,818 in 2000, representing 12.5% of the national population. – Voter registration of Latinos has increased dramatically in the last decade and political candidates from all parties have begun to recognize that the highly diverse Latino population cannot be ignored nor can it be taken for granted.
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Eighty years ago, with the passage of the Indian Citizenship Act of 1924, 6 Native Americans were first granted U.S. citizenship and the corollary right to vote. ◦ However, voting procedures are delegated to the states, and well past 1924 some states misused this power to continue to deny Native Americans the right to vote.
Historically, there were four major arguments used by states to justify their continued disenfranchisement of Native voters: 1: Indians were under federal guardianship, or were federal "wards," and therefore not independent and competent for voting 2: Indians living on reservation lands were residents of their reservation and not of the state (even though the Supreme Court declared all reservation Indians residents of their states in 1881) 3: Indians did not pay state taxes and, therefore, should not be able to affect revenue decisions 4: Indians were not "civilized," and their continued participation in their Tribal communities precluded participation in other elections
It was this last legal prohibition, the requirement that Native Americans be "civilized" before being granted the right to vote, that compounded the already complex and difficult issue of citizenship and civil participation for Natives. – Some believed that accepting citizenship with the very government that had oppressed one's community seemed tantamount to treason, or, at best, foolishness.
Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA). In the 1950s and 1960s states slowly removed overt attempts at disenfranchising Native voters. – The VRA, among other things, prohibits any voting law or practice that "results" in discrimination on account of race, color, or language, and it has provided Native communities with a very powerful tool to ensure that the past practices of discrimination cease. – Several key provisions of the VRA are up for reauthorization in August 2007.
The National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA), also known as the "Motor Voter" act, has helped enhance voting opportunities for every American. The two major provisions in the act were the… – "motor voter" provision, which requires Departments of Motor Vehicles to offer to register citizens to vote – The mail-in voter registration provision, which allows citizens to simply mail in their voter registration form.
In response to voting irregularities in the 2000 Presidential election, Congress passed HAVA. HAVA contains a number of provisions to enhance electoral participation, including… – funds to encourage states to upgrade their voting technology – the establishment of the Election Assistance Commission – the requirement of "provisional" ballots for voters – the centralization of state voter registration systems. HAVA also contains new ID requirements for first-time voters, which many states have used to justify even more restrictive voter ID requirements.
Even with all of the success resulting from recent legislative protections and litigation, a number of legal and cultural obstacles continue to hinder full enfranchisement of America's Native community. For example: – Vote dilution. Electoral systems continue to be designed in manners that result in diluting the strength of the Native voice. At-large and multi-member voting districts, discriminatory reapportionment plans, and staggered terms can all have a negative effect on the ability of Native communities to have their electoral voice heard. – Voter suppression tactics. Unfortunately, as the Native voting population turns out in larger numbers, attention to their voting influence can also attract efforts to discourage them on election day.
Linguistic barriers – Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act provides for language protections for many Native communities. Efforts are made during each election cycle to ensure that language assistance is actually made available to Native voters Distant poll locations – Much of Indian Country is in very rural and remote locations. Limited state resources often place polling precincts over 60 miles from voters. With no public transportation on most reservations, limited resources for gas money, and often inhospitable weather in November, distant polls often mean disenfranchisement for Native Americans.
Suffragettes waged a relentless joint campaign for both an end to slavery and extended rights for women and African-Americans. As a matter of fact, the first Women's Rights Convention in 1848 was held mainly as a result of female delegates being denied admission to an abolitionist convention. – It produced a written set of principles on women's rights called the Declaration of Sentiments, which closely resembled Thomas Jefferson's Declaration of Independence in its style and structure.Declaration of Sentiments It was the first time that women publicly demanded the right to vote.
In 1866, the American Equal Rights Association was founded with Lucretia Mott as president to secure civil rights for all Americans regardless of race, color, or gender. However, after the Civil War the suffragettes and the African-American Civil Rights Movement seemed to part ways when the new 14th Amendment granted suffrage only to former male slaves. During the nineteenth century, the suffragettes resorted mainly to civil disobedience and formal appearances before state and national congressional committees to advance their objectives. In 1866, Stanton tested an obscure 1788 law allowing women to stand for election by running for Congress. – She received only 24 out of 121,000 votes.
A year later, she, Anthony, and Lucy Stone, who radically retained her maiden name after marriage, addressed a subcommittee of the New York Constitutional Convention to request an amendment guaranteeing women's suffrage in the newly revised state constitution. – The appeal failed. In 1918 the House passed a resolution for women's suffrage, which the Senate quickly defeated. However, in 1919 the 19th Amendment granting women the right to vote was adopted by a joint resolution of Congress and sent to the states for ratification. – Twenty-two states ratified it. On August 26, 1920, women's suffrage became a legal right of citizenship for women nationally.
The war in Vietnam fueled the notion that young people who were young enough to die for their country were old enough to vote. In 1970, as part of an extension of the Voting Rights Act, a provision was added lowering the voting age to eighteen. The Supreme Court ruled that Congress had the power to reduce the voting age only in federal elections, not in state elections. To prevent states from having to maintain two different voting rolls, the Twenty-sixth Amendment to the Constitution barred the states and the federal government from denying the vote to anyone eighteen or older.
The history of voting rights is not yet over. Even today, debate continues. One of the most heated debates is whether or not convicted felons who have served their time be allowed to vote. – Today, a handful of states bar convicted felons from voting unless they successfully petition to have their voting rights restored. Another controversy is whether non-citizens should have the right to vote, for example, in local school board elections. In short, the debate about what it means to be a truly democratic society remains an ongoing, unfinished, story.
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The following American Government students participated in the development of this presentation Lisbeth Mena Kristen Douglas Marisa Lewis Kelsey Martin