INSTRUCTIONS: Write a paper on voting rights in the US. For this paper, students will first need to review relevant parts of the Constitution mentioned below, then conduct additional research from academically legitimate and evidence-based sources. This might include government data, empirical data, and/or scholarly and journalistic research to support your work. Include a brief description in your paper of any personal experience that made it difficult or impossible for you to register or vote.
The Constitution leaves most, but not all, election legislation and regulations up to the states. Review Article I, section 4 and Article II, section 1. Both regulate some aspects of elections. Amendments 12, 15, 19, 24, and 26 also deal with elections and some expand voting rights.
The Constitution at ratification did not establish national voting rights. States determined voting rights. Generally, states did not allow women, slaves, Native Americans, many white males who did not own property, and men under 21 the right to vote. At the time, US caucasian life expectancy was probably in the mid-to-late 30s.
The Constitution’s “three-fifths compromise” denied blacks the right to vote and gave all slave states an additional three male voting citizens for every five black men 21 and older. This provision meant the slave states (and their white male adults) counted non-citizen disenfranchised adult male slaves to increase slave state members of the House of Representatives for 75-80 years.
After the civil war, southern and a few other states adopted what came to be known as Jim Crow laws. This established the framework for “legal segregation” and denial of black voting rights in much of the country through 1965. It also maintained the congressional representation advantages of southern states and whites. In the 1960s, before the passage of the Voting Rights Act (1965), an estimated 23 per cent of eligible black voters were registered nationwide.
One can draw at least three broad conclusions from this brief history:
(1) The Constitution established a framework for governing elections and congressional representation. The institution and regulation of elections and state and local laws and practices governing voter eligibility determine the size, distribution, and demographics of the electorate in all elections — both nationally and in states and localities. Election and voting regulations and practices shape election outcomes.
(2) The longest and strongest US legal tradition with respect to voting rights is their consistent limitation, especially by state and local governments, even as the Constitution has been amended and sometimes interpreted to extend the franchise to more Americans. Federal efforts to expand political equality – even in voting rights – is the exception rather than the rule and usually produce pushback in the states. One should also note that state and local governments bear the high costs associated with election regulation and management.
(3) The American political tradition falls short of democracy to the extent that election laws and policies limit and deny voting rights and establish time and place (and other) rules that are intended to and generally result in real and comparative low voter turnout.
This issue is now especially relevant, because of the coronavirus. Some states, including Ohio, changed the dates of 2020 primary elections. Others refused to do so. This year’s political and legal controversy over mail-in voting is also noteworthy.
Papers must be typed 12 font and 1.5 or double spaced, with a text in the range of 1,500 words plus information placed in charts. Papers should additionally have the title and footnote/reference pages. There should be no fewer than five references above and beyond assigned materials and reasonably current (since 2015). Papers MUST include footnotes or endnotes where appropriate. All formats are acceptable, as long as they are used consistently.
In all cases, Provide a reference when you use someone’s ideas (this is perfectly okay). USE YOUR OWN WORDS whenever possible. No paper should use more than one IMPORTANT quotation, and that quotation should be no more than 3-4 lines.
To begin, use the websites below (especially the last one **) for a good overview of voting rights and suppression issues in the past decade.
https://bit.ly/2VOIMIG (excellent site, affiliated with NYU law school)
For the most current news, use Google news search to find recent articles on voter suppression and voting rights. For more information on Electronic Voting check on this: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electronic_voting
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