Elections in the United States are held for government officials at the federal, state, and local levels. While the United States Constitution does set rules for the election of federal officials, state law regulates most aspects of elections in the U.S., including primaries, the eligibility of voters (beyond the constitutional definition), the running of each state's electoral college, and the running of state and local elections. All elections are administered by the states.
The restriction of voting rights to different groups has been a battle throughout United States history. The financing of elections has also long been controversial, because private sources make up substantial amounts of campaign contributions, especially in federal elections. The constitution states that suffrage cannot be denied on grounds of race or color, sex, or age for citizens eighteen years or older. Beyond these qualifications, it is the responsibility of state legislatures to regulate voter eligibility. Some states ban convicted criminals, especially felons, from voting for a fixed period of time or indefinitely.
All U.S. states except North Dakota require that citizens who wish to vote be registered. Traditionally, voters had to register at state offices to vote, but in the mid-1990s efforts were made by the federal to make registering easier, in an attempt to increase turnout. The National Voter Registration Act of 1993 required state governments that receive certain types of federal funding to make the voter registration easier by providing uniform registration through drivers' license registration centers, disability centers, schools, libraries, and mail-in registration. Other states allow citizens same-day registration on Election Day.
Voters unable or unwilling to vote at polling stations on Election Day could vote via absentee ballots, depending on state law. Originally these ballots were for people who could not go to the polling place on Election Day. Now some states let them be used for convenience, but state laws still call them absentee ballots.
According to Article I, Section 4, of the United States Constitution, the authority to regulate the time, place, and manner of federal elections is up to each State, unless Congress legislates otherwise.
On 7 November 2020, the United States pulled back from re-electing a president who repeatedly showed disdain for democratic norms and institutions. Since then, in states that tipped the win to Biden, and even a few states that are starting to lean Democrat, the GOP have been trying to implement laws to limit voting, citing the lies of Trump and other GOP about election fraud (while presenting 0 proof), it simply stating they are allowed to do so by the constitution (Article I, Section 4 "The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof").
Voter suppression has been a part of the United States political scene since the start. From Jim Crow laws to the gutting of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, citizens of the United States, particularly of color, have been disenfranchised in blatant and subtle ways. But voter suppression has been a tool historically used to deter Black Americans and other minorities from voting. "It is important to acknowledge that it has always, or almost for the entire history of our country, been about race, that voter suppression has been inextricably intertwined with an attempt to stop first Black men, and since then other people of color from voting," Sean Morales-Doyle, deputy director of Voting Rights and Elections at the Brennan Center, told ABC News.
After the Civil War, three amendments, the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments, to ensure equality for African Americans in the South. The 13th Amendment, ratified in 1865, abolished slavery and indentured servitude (outside of prison terms). The 14th Amendment, ratified in 1868, gave African Americans "equal protection under the laws." However, the 15th Amendment, ratified in 1870, barred states from disenfranchising voters on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.
The 15th Amendment, however, did not provide automatic voting rights for African Americans. Congress did not provide enforcement for the 15th Amendment right away. Tennessee was the last state to formally ratify the amendment in 1997. Voting rights were also denied for those convicted of crimes through felon disenfranchisement laws.
By 1870, 28 states had adopted a version of these laws prohibiting convicted felons the right to vote, according to the Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, a peer-reviewed study published by the Northwestern University School of Law. Some states still have these laws. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, only two states, Maine and Vermont, gives everyone the uninhibited right to vote. Three states currently disenfranchise felons from voting permanently: Iowa, Kentucky and Virginia.
Southern states also enforced rules commonly known as the Jim Crow laws, which mandated segregation in public, particularly between white and Black Americans. Poll tax was one of the Jim Crow laws. Poll taxes discouraged those who could not afford to pay from voting and were a prerequisite to register to vote in Jim Crow states. Poll taxes disproportionately affected Black voters.
Poll taxes continued into the 20th century. As of 1964, Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, Texas and Virginia held on to poll taxes, reported the New York Times in a Jan. 24, 1964 article.
Literacy tests were also used to stop people who were illiterate from participating in the voting process (seeing as that would largely hit the black community, at the time they thought, the hardest). Literacy tests were administered at the whim of those in charge of voter registration and often discriminated against African Americans. Literary tests asked civics questions such as "In which document or writing is the Bill of Rights found?" or "Name two of the purposes of the U.S. Constitution" as found in a 1965 Alabama literacy test. African Americans who took part in these test were descendants of slaves who were not allowed to read or write in several states due to anti-literacy laws. Convenient"
White men who could not pass the literacy tests were able to vote due to the "Grandfather Clause" allowing them to participate in voting if their grandfathers voted by 1867. Also, convenient"
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