Voting Rights

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 outlawed discriminatory voting practices that disenfranchised African Americans in the United States and prevent any prerequisite from being established for the ability to vote. Voting rights in the United States have developed greatly since the establishment of the United States Constitution and the rights have expanded to include not only men but also women, African Americans, and anyone else living in the country legally. Women were given the right to vote in 1920 with the 19th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. Then in 1924, the Indian Citizenship Act gave all Native Americans the rights of citizenship, which includes the right to vote in federal elections. Then, in 1944, the Supreme Court outlawed ‘white primaries.' White primaries were conducted by private associations, which, could exclude whomever they chose. The 23rd Amendment to the Constitution of the United States allowed citizens of the District of Columbia to vote in Presidential elections in 1961. 1964 saw the banishment of the poll tax as a requirement for voting in federal elections with the passing of the 24th Amendment. Minorities were protected in their right to vote with the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the literacy tests required to vote were banished as well. The 26th Amendment, the final Amendment dealing with voting, declare that the voting age is set at 18 in the year 1971. The following are some of the most important key terms involved in voting:

  • Ballot – action or system of secret voting
  • Candidate - A person who seeks or is nominated for a political office
  • Citizen - Connotes membership in a political society to which a duty of permanent allegiance is implied.
  • Constituency – a body of individuals entitled to elect a representative to a legislative or other representative body
  • Democracy – a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation
  • Disenfranchise – to take away the power or opportunity to vote
  • Election – a systematic process by which voters cast ballots for candidates or positions on issues
  • Proportional representation – an electoral system in which political parties are represented according to the number of people who voted for them

Voting rights of different categories of people in the United States differ from one state to the next. The majority of voting rights are decided by each individual state and they differ depending on that state's legislature. For instance, some states allow felons or ex-cons to vote in local and state elections but some states allow felons and ex-cons to vote in not only local and state elections but also in federal elections and Presidential elections. The only two states in the country, as of 2007, to allow incarcerated individuals to vote were Maine and Vermont. Citizens of the United States that live oversees, are legally allowed to vote in elections that take place in the country even if they are not in the country at the time. Also, a citizen of the United States that has never actually resided in the country is allowed to vote if their parent is eligible to vote. This law is effective in various states. The Americans with Disabilities Act protects mentally and physically disabled citizens from being discriminated against at polling places or when registering to vote.

If you would like to find out more about voting rights, please contact a civil rights lawyer today.
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