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What the Constitution and Its Amendments Say About Voting Rights

By    |   Sunday, 15 Nov 2015 10:56 PM

The right to vote is a foundation of the American system. As part of a democracy, citizens hold the power to elect officials they believe in and vote out those who have disappointed them. Despite voting rights being key to the American way of life, the United States Constitution initially only granted them to white men. Later amendments extended voting rights to specific groups, such as women and blacks.

The Center for Voting and Democracy noted that voting rights are not federally protected or guaranteed by the Constitution. In fact, Democracy Journal noted that the U.S. Supreme Court declared in Bush v. Gore that "[t]he individual citizen has no federal constitutional right to vote for electors for the President of the United States."

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The phrase "right to vote" is mentioned just five times in the Constitution, and all of those references appear in the amendments. It makes its first appearance in the Fourth Amendment, according to The Atlantic. This amendment, passed in 1789 as part of the Bill of Rights, doesn't specifically say that all U.S. citizens are guaranteed the right to vote. Instead, it says that states will lose their representation in Congress if they deny voting rights. It only grants this right to white male citizens age 21 and older.

Voting rights make their next appearance in the 15th Amendment, passed in 1869 and ratified in 1870. The amendment, part of the Reconstruction Amendments passed after the end of the Civil War, stated that the right to vote could not be "denied or abridged on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude." Passed after the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery, the 15th Amendment was written specifically to grant blacks the right to vote.

In the 19th Amendment, passed in 1919 and ratified in 1920, women earned the right to vote. This amendment states "The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex."

The 23rd Amendment, passed in 1960 and ratified in 1961, granted the citizens of Washington, D.C., the right to vote in presidential elections by the district electors in the Electoral College as though it were a state.

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The last mention of voting rights comes in the 26th Amendment, passed in 1971, lowered the voting age from 21 to 18. According to the Cornell University Law School Legal Information Institute, the amendment states "The right of citizens of the United States, who are 18 years of age or older, to vote, shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any state on account of age."

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Despite voting rights being key to the American way of life, the United States Constitution initially only granted them to white men. Later amendments extended voting rights to specific groups, such as women and blacks.
voting rights, Constitution, amendments
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2015-56-15
Sunday, 15 Nov 2015 10:56 PM
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