The dispute of voting rights in the United States has been argumentative throughout the entire history of the country. Entitlement to vote in the U.S. is decided by both state and Federal law. At this time, only citizens are allowed to vote in U.S. elections. Who can actually become a citizen is overseen on a national basis by federal law. Each state is granted substantial discretion to create qualifications for candidacy within its own authority in the absence of a federal law of constitutional amendment.
When the United States was established, throughout the majority of the states, only white men that owned property were allowed to vote. Freed African Americans were also allowed to vote in four of the states. Many white working men, almost all women, and all other people of color were denied the right to vote. By the time of the American Civil War, most Caucasian men were allowed to vote regardless of whether or not they owned property. Literacy tests, poll taxes, and even religious tests were used in numerous places to make voting unattainable to many, so various under privileged white men, most white women, African Americans, and Native Americans still could not vote. The United States Constitution, in Article VI, section 3, demands that “no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.” The Constitution does, however, leave the determination of voting credentials to the individual states. Gradually, the federal role in elections has amplified through amendments to the Constitution and enacted legislation, like the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (Westwind Writers Inc.). At least four of the fifteen post-Civil War constitutional amendments were authorized precisely to extend voting rights to different groups of citizens. These extensions state that voting rights cannot be denied or abridged based on birth (14th Amendment), race (15th Amendment), sex (19th Amendment), failure to pay taxes (24th Amendment), and anyone who is of eighteen years of age or older (26th Amendment). The “right to vote” is clearly stated in the U.S. Constitution in the above referenced amendments but only in reference to the fact that the permission cannot be denied or condensed based exclusively on the above-mentioned credentials. In other words, the “right to vote” is only allowed in certain forms of legal discrimination in establishing qualifications for suffrage. States may actually deny the “right to vote” for other reasons than the ones listed above. Many states, as an example of denying voting rights, require eligible citizens to register to vote a set number of days before the election in order to be qualified to vote. More debatable restrictions include those laws that prevent convicted felons from voting or disputes as to what rules should apply in counting or recounting ballots (Thomas, 2000). A state can even choose to fill an office by means other than an election. This may happen upon the death or resignation of a legislator, where the state may allow the connected political party to decide on a replacement to hold office until the next organized election. This type of appointment is often confirmed by the governor (“Justia US Law”). Each addition of voting rights has been a creation of, and also carried out, social change. From voting rights for Native Americans and African Americans to poor whites and women, one can easily see the social change in the U.S. throughout the country’s existence. Although Native Americans were born in the United States, they were not allowed the right to vote because they were not considered citizens by law, so they were considered ineligible. Many Native Americans were promised that they would become citizens if they gave up all of their tribal associations in 1887, but this still did not assure their right to vote. In 1924, many finally were able to become...
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