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Voting - The Growth Of Enfranchisement, Attempts At Disenfranchisement, Rock The Vote And Motor Voter, Voting Reforms

elections qualifications suffrage citizens

The right to vote is a fundamental element of the U.S. system of representative democracy. In this form of government, policy decisions are made by representatives chosen in periodic elections based on the principle of universal suffrage, which requires that all citizens (or at least all competent adults not guilty of serious crimes) be eligible to vote in elections. Democratic governments are premised on political equality. Although individuals are inherently unequal with respect to their talents and virtues, they are deemed equal in their essential worth and dignity as human beings. Each individual has an equal right to participate in politics under the law.

Though these principles of representative democracy and universal suffrage have been idealized throughout U.S. history, citizens often have needed to struggle to make these principles a reality. The Framers of the U.S. Constitution did not explicitly define qualifications for voting but delegated to the states the right to set voting requirements. At the time the Constitution was ratified, property qualifications for voting still existed, and the franchise was granted originally only to white men.


Abramowitz, Alan. 2004. Voice of the People: Elections and Voting in the United States. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Burke, Christopher M. 1999. The Appearance of Equality: Racial Gerrymandering, Redistricting, and the Supreme Court. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood.

Festa, Matthew J. 2001. "The Origins and Constitutionality of State Unit Voting in the Electoral College." Vanderbilt Law Review 54 (October).

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