Female Hand Casting a Vote in a Box

US Federal Voting Rights

Laws that cover elections in the United States were first seen in Article 1 of the Constitution.

This provides each state with the responsibility of overseeing all elections taking place within their borders. Since that time, various federal laws, as well as Constitutional amendments, have been passed in regards to voting. The goal has always been to make certain all eligible American citizens have a fair and equal opportunity to participate in the voting process.

A person may still be able to vote if they were recently arrested but able to avoid jail time by paying for a bail bond. Any person serving in prison during an election is not permitted to vote. If a person is on parole during an election, they won’t be able to vote. Should a person be serving probation during an election, they also would not be permitted to vote.

Constitutional Amendments And Voting Laws

The 15th Amendment to the Constitution was passed in February of 1870. It enabled African-American men to vote. The majority of them still weren’t able to participate in the voting process for almost a century. Many states had literacy tests, poll taxes and other methods designed to keep African-Americans from voting. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 did away these methods used by states in the South and elsewhere to prevent African-Americans from voting. In 1920, the 19th Amendment to the Constitution was passed. It gave all American women the right to vote. The 24th Amendment was ratified in 1964. It did away with the use of poll taxes that were used to prevent African Americans from voting in federal elections. In 1971, the 26th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified. It made 18 the legal voting age for every election. In 1984, the Voting Accessibility for the Elderly and Handicapped was passed. This required polling places to be accessible to any individual who has a disability. In 1986, the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA) was passed into law. This made it possible for members serving in the U.S. military overseas to register and vote. In 1993, the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) was passed. It put procedures in place for keeping voter registration lists. In 2002, the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) was passed. It provided federal funds for election administration. It helps states comply with all official federal voting standards.

Voting Rights Act Of 1965

Prior to its passage approximately two-thirds of all African Americans were not on the voting registration rolls. At the same time, two-thirds of eligible white voters were on the voting registration rolls. Since the passage of the Voting Rights Act, African-American voter registration rates have reached parity with those of whites in many states. This has resulted in more black representatives being elected. They now have substantial representation on local, state and federal levels.

Homeless Voting Rights

The rights of homeless individuals to vote has been an issue discussed in many different courts since the 1980s. Many states have laws specifically designed to address homeless individuals voting. Opponents of the homeless voting have raised a question of true citizenship because the homeless do not have a residence. Courts in various jurisdictions have ruled that homeless individuals do have the right to vote.

At-Large Voting

This is a situation where representatives vote on issues and not the electorate. This situation has been challenged many times in different courts. Many believe this eliminates the voting strength of minorities. It is thought to be a violation of the Voting Rights Act. It suppresses individuals who would want to be a representative, but do not have the financial resources to compete with others. To resolve this limited voting has been used to correct any unsatisfactory results.

Noncitizen Voting

Before the Declaration of Independence and currently, more than 39 states as well as United States territories have permitted noncitizens to vote under certain conditions. All have required the noncitizens to meet certain residential requirements. The Supreme Court in 1874 ruled that citizenship has not always been required for a person to participate in the electoral process. Some states permit noncitizen voting if an individual has legally declared their desire to become a United States citizen. Noncitizens are currently not permitted to participate in federal elections.

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