Chapter 6: Voters and Voter Behavior
Section 1: The Right to Vote
State Disenfranchisement Laws
46 states and the District of Columbia prohibit inmates from voting while serving a felony sentence. Four states-Maine, Massachusetts, Utah, and Vermont-permit inmates to vote.
32 states prohibit felons from voting while they are on parole and 29 of these states exclude felony probationers also.
10 states disenfranchise all ex-offenders who have completed their criminal sentence. Four others disenfranchise some ex-offenders. In addition, Texas disenfranchises ex-offenders for two years after they have completed their sentences.
The size of the American electorate is at about 220 million people, nearly all citizens who are at least 18 years of age, can now qualify to vote.
The history of American suffrage since 1789 has been marked by two long-term trends.
First, the nation has experienced the gradual elimination of several restrictions on the right to vote. These restrictions were based on such factors as religious belief, property ownership, tax payment, race, and sex.
Second, a significant share of what was originally the States’ power over the right to vote has gradually been assumed by the Federal Government.
White male property owners; about 1/15 of white males.
1850-Religious and Property qualifications were dropped
Almost all adult white males
All adult males including African Americans (but this was not enforced)
All adult women
1960s-Civil Rights Movement
All adult men and women including African Americans
All men and women over the age of 18
Chapter 6: Voters and Voter Behavior
Section 2: Voter Qualifications
Universal Requirements for Voting
Must be at least 18 years of age
Must be a resident of the state
Must be a citizen
Must be registered (except in No. Dakota)
Why residency requirement for voting purposes?
• To keep a political organization from importing (bribing) enough outsiders to affect the outcome of local elections (a once common practice).
• To allow new voters at least some time to become familiar with the candidates and issues in an election.
The significance of the Supreme Court case: Dunn v. Blumstein
• The Supreme Court found Tennessee’s requirement: a year in the State and 90 days in the county—unconstitutional. The Court held such a lengthy requirement to be discriminating against new residents and so in conflict with the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause.
• The Supreme Court said, “30 days appears to be an ample period of time.” Election law and practice among the States quickly accepted that standard.
Voting participation rate for 18-to-20-year-olds
• Young voters are much less likely to vote than any other age group in the electorate.
• In 1972, 48 percent of the 18-to-20 age group voted.
• In 2000, it plummeted to 28 percent.
• In 2004, it increased to nearly 38 percent.
• But contrast that figure with the turnout of Americans 65 and older. Their rate regularly exceeds 60 percent, and it did so again in 2004.
Why Don’t Young People Vote?
• They feel it doesn’t make a difference
• They aren’t registered,
• They don’t have enough information, or
• There isn’t enough time.
Why Young Voters Are Ignored:
• Because young people don’t vote, campaigns feel they shouldn’t waste resources targeting young voters, which only leads to continued disengagement of young voters.
Why Young Voters shouldn’t be Ignored:
• Because of the polarization of our nation’s electoral system, Republicans and Democrats are each battling over a handful of swing voters.
• Any candidate looking for marginal votes needed to win will find that young voters – with the right approach – can easily become their “new” voters.
1. What is the purpose of registration for voters?
• It is a procedure of voter identification intended to prevent fraudulent voting. It gives election officials a list of those persons who are qualified to vote in an election. Several States also use voter registration to identify voters in terms of their party preference and, thus, their eligibility to take part in closed primaries.
2. What is the correlation between the poll book and purging?
• State law directs local election officials to review the lists of registered voters and to remove the names of those who are no longer eligible to vote. This process is known as purging, and it is often ignored. The poll books soon become clogged with the names of many people who are no longer eligible to vote.
3. Why do some think that the registration requirement should be abolished?
• The critics see the qualification as a bar to voting, especially by the poor and less educated.
• Those critics support their case by noting that voter turnout began to decline in the early 1900s, just after most States adopted a registration requirement.
• They also point to the fact that voter turnout is much higher in most European democracies than in the United States.
• The United States is the only democratic country in which each person decides whether or not he or she will register to vote.
4. How have the states simplified the voter registration process?
• allow all eligible citizens to register to vote when they apply for or renew a driver’s license
• provide for voter registration by mail
• make registration forms available at the local offices of State employment, welfare, and other social service agencies
5. What is the significance of the Supreme Court case: Dunn v. Blumstein?
The Supreme Court found Tennessee’s requirement: a year in the State and 90 days in the county—unconstitutional.
The Court held such a lengthy requirement to be discriminating against new residents and in conflict with the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause.
The Supreme Court said, “30 days appears to be an ample period of time.” Election law and practice among the States quickly accepted that standard.