Chapter 6: Voters and Voter Behavior
Section 1
Objectives
1. Summarize the history of voting rights in
the United States.
2. Identify and explain constitutional
restrictions on the States’ power to set
voting qualifications.
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Key Terms
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suffrage: the right to vote
franchise: a synonym for the right to vote
electorate: the potential voting population
disenfranchised: denied the right to vote
poll tax: a fee charged before allowing
someone to vote
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Introduction
• How have voting rights changed over the course
of American history?
– Over time, voting rights have been extended to more
Americans.
– Voting qualifications based on property ownership,
religion, race, and sex have all been eliminated
through federal laws and constitutional amendments.
– The age requirement for voting has been reduced.
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The Electorate
• The Constitution originally gave the power to
decide voter qualifications to the States.
– At first most States allowed only white male property
owners to vote.
• Since 1789, many restrictions on voting rights
have been eliminated.
• At the same time, the power to decide who has
the right to vote has been shifting from the
States to the federal government.
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Stage 1
• Checkpoint: What was the first voting qualification to
disappear?
– Religious qualifications for
voting were eliminated
by 1810.
– This was followed in the
early 1800s by the gradual
elimination of property
ownership and tax
payment qualifications.
– By 1850, almost all white
males could vote in every
State.
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Stage 2
• After the Civil War, the
15th Amendment made it
illegal to deny any citizen
the right to vote based on
their race or color.
– In theory, this
amendment gave African
Americans the right to
vote.
– However, the spirit of
this law was violated for
nearly 100 years as
African Americans were
denied the vote in many
places.
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Stage 3
• In 1920, the ratification of the 19th
Amendment gave women the right to
vote.
– By 1920, more than half the States had
already followed the example set by Wyoming
in 1869 and given women the vote.
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Women’s Suffrage in 1919
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Stages 4 & 5
• During the 1960s, the civil rights
movement led to new protections for
African American voting rights.
– The Voting Rights Act of 1965 defended
racial equality in voting.
– The 24th Amendment eliminated the poll tax
in federal elections.
• In 1971 the 26th Amendment gave those
18 and older the right to vote.
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Voting Qualifications
• The Constitution sets five restrictions on the
ability of the States to set voter qualifications.
– Anyone allowed to vote for members of their State
legislature must be allowed to vote for members of
Congress.
– The 15th Amendment bans the States from depriving
any person of the right to vote on account of their
race, color, or having once been enslaved.
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Voting Qualifications, cont.
• Under the 19th
Amendment, no State
can deprive any person
of the right to vote
based on their sex.
• No State can levy a tax
on the right to vote for
President, Vice
President, or members
of Congress.
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Voting Qualifications, cont.
• Under the 26th
Amendment, no
State can deprive any
person who is at least
18 years of age of the
right to vote because
of their age.
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Voting Qualifications, cont.
• In addition, no State can violate any other
provision in the Constitution when setting
its voting qualifications.
– For example, a State cannot set suffrage
qualifications that violate the Equal Protection
Clause of the 14th Amendment.
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Review
• Now that you have learned about how
voting rights have changed over the
course of American history, go back and
answer the Chapter Essential Question.
– Why do voters act as they do?
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