Rights and Qualifications
The Right to Vote
Suffrage – right (franchise) to vote - won in 5 stages.
- Extension of existing rights in the 1800s - religion, tax payers,
property qualifications eliminated
- Broadened – 1870 – Black Americans gain right – 15th Amendment
- Broadened - 1920 – Women gain right – 19th Amendment
- Secured – 1965 – Although gained, the right for blacks still denied
in many places, until Voting Rights Act.
- Broadened – 26th Amendment allows 18 yr olds to vote.
Setting Voter Qualifications
States have the power, not the Feds
Reason why so many had been disenfranchised in
the past.
Amendments removed the restrictions to bring the
right to vote to so many more Americans.
As late as 1975, states still tried to restrict the vote,
but were stopped by the Supreme Court
Existing Qualifications
National reasonable requirements still exist
 Citizenship – Most states require it (but could waive!)
 Residence – Designated time legally living in state
- Prevents voters from coming for one election candidate
- Assures time for familiarity with issues
- 30 days has become the standard
 Registration – to prevent fraud (voting twice)
- Purging – cleaning up voter lists
- Poll Books – list signatures which voters sign to match when voting
Voter List Maintenance
Motor Voter Law – License renewals help clean lists
Questionnaires – Every 4 years to update lists for
deaths and changes of residence.
New registrants – 20 or 30 days before Election Day
Illegal Qualifying Tactics
Literacy – Can vote even if can’t read & write
Congress eliminated the requirement in 1970.
Poll Tax – “Pay to Play” – Eliminated in 1964 under
the 24th Amendment.
Only mentally ill, convicted felons and in some
states dishonorably discharged vets cannot vote.
Other Election Concepts
Gerrymandering – redrawing district voting lines
Strengthens (or weaken) a party’s ability to elect candidates.
Preclearance – Justice Department must approve all
new laws on voting or elections.
Prevents weakening of laws that have
enfranchised the nation’s minorities
Voting Rights Act 1965
The most forceful law ever enacted to protect the
voting rights of all Americans.
Eliminated remaining efforts in the south to keep
black Americans from voting.
Amended 4 times to extend protections until 2007.
Pres. Bush signed 25 year reauthorization on 7/27/07.
Voter Behavior
Why People Don’t Vote
 Cannot vote – Of the 100 million + non-voters in 2000…10 million resident aliens
- 5-6 million were ill
- 2-3 million were travelling unexpectedly
- 2 million prisoners
 Did Not Vote – 80 Million people – chose not to
- religious beliefs (??)
- makes no difference; don’t care
- distrust politicians
No Political Efficacy – feel their vote doesn’t matter
Comparing Voters & Non-Voters
Current information on the nature of voters is as follows
Higher income, education, occupation level
Lower income, education level, unskilled jobs
Well established in a community, home
owners or urbanites
More often rural residents, rather than urban
or suburbanites
Strong party identification – contact with
Less contact with party organizers
Live where laws and customs promote voting
Live where less enthusiastic law enforcement
Older than 35, married, established in life
Younger, transient, becoming established
Male (Changing)
Women (Changing)
Voter Behavior
Three sources of study about voters
Election Results – Which candidate carried which
states, counties and regions – from voter registration
Polling Organizations – Roper, Gallup, Quinnipiac
and the Center for Political Studies, U of Michigan
Studies of Political Socialization – how people come
to believe what they believe about politics – parents
and teachers.
Sociological Factors
Not to be considered exclusive characteristics of
people who have voted for either party.
College graduates
High School Only, GED or elementary only
Catholics, Jews
Professional, Business Executives
Union Members
Women (Changes as more career oriented)
Older voters
Younger voters
Minorities (Changing)
Rural American, Suburbs
Cities, College Towns
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