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Voters and Voting Behavior. The Right to Vote The power to set suffrage qualifications is left by the Constitution to the states. Suffrage and franchise.

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Presentation on theme: "Voters and Voting Behavior. The Right to Vote The power to set suffrage qualifications is left by the Constitution to the states. Suffrage and franchise."— Presentation transcript:

1 Voters and Voting Behavior

2 The Right to Vote The power to set suffrage qualifications is left by the Constitution to the states. Suffrage and franchise both mean the right to vote.

3 Expansion of the Electorate 1789 – right to vote was limited to white male property owners. Less than one out of fifteen adult white males could vote. Today more than 200 million people are registered to vote. Since 1789 two trends have changed suffrage a) gradual elimination of restrictions b) power over right to vote has shifted to federal government.

4 Extending Suffrage: The Five Stages 1. Early 1800’s religious restrictions disappeared and property and tax qualification mostly disappeared. 2. After Civil War 15 th Amendment gave former slaves and people of color the right to vote th Amendment prohibited the right to vote because of sex.

5 ’s – federal legislation and court decisions secured the right to vote for African-Americans rd Amendment – 1961 – voters in D.C. can vote in presidential election th Amendment – eliminates poll tax in federal elections – Voting Rights Act of 1965 – restricts what states can do to regulate voter registration.

6 5. 26 th Amendment – 1971 – lowers voting age to 18.

7 Power to Set Voting Qualifications Constitution places five restrictions on states. 1. Voters who vote in state elections must be allowed to vote in national elections. 2. Cannot deny right to vote “on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” – 15 th Amendment. 3. State cannot deny any person the right to vote on account of sex. – 19 th Amendment.

8 4. Cannot require payment of any tax as a requirement to vote in federal elections. – 24 th Amendment. 5. No state can deny anyone who is at least 18 the right to vote. – 26 th Amendment. No other provision of the Constitution can be violated. Hill v. Stone (1975) – anything that draws a distinction for voting purposes is an unreasonable classification that violates the Equal Protection Clause of the 14 th Amendment.

9 Voter Qualifications Three universal requirements to vote: Citizenship Residence Age

10 Citizenship In most states you must be a citizen. Constitution does not require this. Minnesota requires a person to have been a citizen for at least three months. Very few aliens actually vote, even in states where they are allowed.

11 Residence Most states have a residency requirement. 1. to prevent a political machine from “importing” voters. 2. To insure that all voters have some time to become familiar with candidates and issues. 30 days is most common length of time. Federal law bans any requirement longer than 30 days for federal elections.

12 Age 26 th Amendment – If you are 18 you cannot be denied the right to vote. Result of protests during the Vietnam War. State could set an age of less than 18. Some states allow 17 year olds to vote in Primary Elections.

13 Other Qualifications Registration – 49 states require voters to register. Voter Identification is used in some states. Many Voter ID laws have been overturned by the Supreme Court because they unfairly restrict segments of the population. Usually registration requires name, age, place of birth, present address, length of residence.

14 Lists are updated periodically to remove people who have moved or are deceased. Voter registration drives are held to insure that people have a equal opportunity to register. Many states have eased registration requirements to get more people out to vote.

15 Motor Voter Law 1. people can register to vote when they register for a driver’s license. 2. provide voter registration by mail. 3. registration forms available at State Employment offices.

16 Tactics to Stop Registration Literacy tests - prospective voters must pass a test to vote. Eliminated by an Amendment to the Voting Rights Act in Poll Tax – prohibited by 24 th Amendment in federal elections. Supreme Court eliminates it in all elections in 1966.

17 Attempts to subvert 15 th Amendment 1. violence – hanging, firing, denying credit at local stores. 2. literacy tests. 3. Registration laws, poll taxes, 4. “white primaries” 5. gerrymandering (drawing electoral district lines to limit voting strength of a particular group.

18 “White Primaries” Democrats were the only ones to nominate candidates in the South. Political parties were defined by states as “private associations” and could exclude who they didn’t want. Would not allow blacks to join the party. Therefore all the candidates they would nominate were white.

19 Outlawed by the Supreme Court in 1944 – primaries are an integral part of the election process – falls under the 15 th Amendment. Outlawed gerrymandering for purposes of racial discrimination – violates 15 th Amendment.

20 Early Civil Rights Legislation Civil Rights Act of 1957 Set up Civil Rights Commission Inquire into claims of voter discrimination Gave Attorney General power to get court orders to prevent interference with a person’s right to vote. Civil Rights Act of 1960 – federal referees to help people register and vote.

21 Civil Rights Act of 1964 Outlawed discrimination in several areas – jobs, housing, etc. Forbid use of literacy test or any other registration requirement in an unfair manner. Used court injunctions to overcome racial barriers. Led to King’s Selma March in early 1965 that ended in violence. Johnson responded with legislation to ensure voting rights.

22 Voting Rights Act of 1965 Applied to all elections. Ended all poll taxes. Ended all literacy tests for five years. Appointed voting examiners in states and counties were less than half the people were registered or voted. Officers could register voters and oversee elections.

23 Further restrictions – no new election laws or changes in existing laws could be made unless approved by the Department of Justice. Amendments of 1975 – made ban on literacy tests permanent. Expanded law to include states with more than 5% of the voting-age population were “language minorities” – Hispanic, Native Americans, Asian Americans, Alaskan Americans.


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