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The Right to Vote


The Federal Court System. According to the Constitution, Congress has the power to create inferior courts (all federal courts, other than the Supreme Court.) – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: The Right to Vote

The Right to Vote
  • The Framers of the Constitution purposefully left
    the power to set suffrage qualifications to each
  • When the Constitution went into effect in 1789,
    the right to vote was restricted to white male
    property owners.
  • Only 1 in 15 adult white males could vote in
  • Today, more than 205 million people qualify to

5 Stages of Extending Suffrage
  1. Early 1800s religious qualifications
    disappeared, followed by property ownership and
    tax qualifications. By the mid 1800s almost all
    adult white male could vote.
  2. Following the Civil War, the 15th amendment tried
    to end voter discrimination due to race.
  3. 19th amendment guaranteed the right to vote for
  4. During the 1960s, Congress took steps to
    guarantee suffrage for African Americans
  5. 26th amendment extended voting rights to 18 year

The Power to Set Voting Qualifications
  • 5 Restrictions placed on States
  • Each state must allow eligible voters to vote in
    all elections within the state
  • No state can deprive a person the right to vote
    because of race
  • No state can deprive a person the right to vote
    on account of gender
  • No state can require the payment of a poll tax
  • No state can deprive a person over the age of 18
    the right to vote because of age.

Voter Qualifications
  • 3 factors used to determine voter eligibility
  • Citizenship
  • Residence
  • Important to keep political machines from
    importing enough outsiders to affect the outcome
    of the election and to ensure that every voter
    has at least some time in which to become
    familiar with the candidates and issues in an
  • Age

Other Requirements
  • Registration
  • It gives officials a list of people who are
    eligible to vote in elections, and it helps to
    prevent voter fraud.
  • Motor Voter Law
  • Allows citizens to register to vote when they
    renew their drivers license
  • Literacy Tests
  • Ruled illegal by the Voting Rights Act of 1970
  • Citizens must pass a literacy test to be able to
    vote. Used as a barrier to prevent African
    Americans from voting after the Civil War
  • grandfather clause because many whites also
    could not read or write, literacy tests contained
    a provision that stated a person may vote without
    passing a literacy test if any male ancestor
    could vote.

Other Requirements (cont.)
  • Poll Tax
  • Declared illegal in the 24th amendment
  • Required a tax be paid prior to participating in
    an election.

The 15th Amendment
  • Right to vote cannot be denied to any citizen of
    the United States because of race, color, or
    previous condition of servitude.
  • Intended to ensure the right to vote for African
  • Southerners tried to block the effect of this
    amendment by using intimidation, literacy tests,
    poll taxes, gerrymandering, and white primaries

  • The practice of drawing electoral district lines
    in order to limit the voting strength of a
    particular group or party.
  • Ruled unconstitutional in Gomillion v. Lightfoot

White Primaries
  • Because political parties are private
    associations they believed they could keep
    African Americans from voting in primary
    elections, thus excluding them from an important
    step in the public election process
  • Smith v. Allwright (1944) outlawed white
    primaries because nominations are an integral
    part of the election process

Civil Rights Legislation
  • Civil Rights Act of 1957
  • Set up the U.S. Civil Rights Commission to check
    into claims of voter discrimination, gave the
    attorney general authority to prevent
    interference with any persons right to vote in a
    federal election
  • Civil Rights of 1960
  • Added an additional safeguard by allowing the
    appointment of federal voting referees when voter
    discrimination is uncovered

Legislation (cont.)
  • Civil Rights Act of 1964
  • Broader and more effective than its predecessors.
  • Outlaws discrimination in several areas,
    especially job related matters
  • Forbids the use of any voter registration or
    literacy requirement in an unfair or
    discriminatory manner and makes violation a
    federal offence
  • Voting Rights Act of 1965
  • Made the 15th amendment a truly effective part of
    the Constitution
  • Applied to all elections held anywhere in the

Voter Behavior
  • In the 2000 election 205.8 million Americans were
    eligible to vote
  • Only 105.4 million (51.2) actually voted for
  • Only 99 million (48) voted for U.S.
  • In the 1998 off-year election, only 66,033
    (33.9) voted for U.S. Representative

Why People Dont Vote
  • cannot vote nonvoters (20 million)
  • Resident aliens
  • Ill or physically cannot make it to the polls
  • Traveling out of country unexpectedly
  • People in mental health care facilities
  • In jail or prison
  • Religious nonvoters
  • Actual nonvoters (80 million)
  • People deliberately choose not to vote
  • Convinced it makes no real difference who wins
  • Satisfaction
  • Distrust of politics and politicians
  • Lack of political efficacy (lack of any sense of
    their own influence or effectiveness in politics.)

Factors Affecting Turnout
  • Complicated election procedures
  • Inconvenient registration requirements
  • Long ballots
  • Long lines at polling places
  • Bad weather
  • Time-zone Fallout
  • Because polls have closed in the east and central
    time-zones, a winner may be declared before some
    people vote in the mountain and pacific zones
  • Lack of Interest

Who Votes?
  • The people most likely to vote
  • Display such characteristics as higher levels of
    income, education, and occupational status.
  • They are well-integrated into community life,
    long-time residents, who are active and
    comfortable in their surroundings
  • Strong party identification, and believe voting
    is important
  • Women are more likely to vote than men

Who Doesnt Vote?
  • People are less likely to vote if
  • They are younger than 35, unmarried, and
  • They live in the South and in rural areas

Sociological Factors
  • Political Socialization is the process by which
    people come to believe what they believe about
  • Factors that influence voting behavior
  • Income, occupation (higher income Republican)
  • Education (more education Republican, however,
    education make you more liberal)
  • Gender, Age (women, young people Democrat)
  • Religion (Protestants Republican, Catholics,
    Jews Democrat)
  • Geography (South/Midwest Republican,
    Northeast/West Democrat)
  • Family (You vote the way your parents voted)

Psychological Factors
  • A strong party identification is the single most
    significant and lasting predictor of how a person
    will vote.
  • Straight-ticket voting voting for candidates of
    only one party in an election
  • Split-ticket voting voting for candidates of
    more than one party in the same election
  • The impression a candidate makes on the voters
    can have an impact on how they will vote
  • The role of issues are especially important in
    presidential elections, people care about the
    things that effect them most.