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10.1 Expansion of Suffrage

The expression "the right to vote" has many variations. The voting is also known as the suffrage, the franchise, or balloting. The people who posses the right to vote are know as the voters or the electorate. The Constitution provided in Article I, Section 2 that "the electors in each state [voting for members of the House of Representatives] shall have the qualifications requisite for electors of the most numerous branch of the State Legislature." The history of suffrage in America has been a continuous struggle, to extend the right to vote from a small group of property-owing males to the majority of the adults.

10.1a Universal Manhood Suffrage

The establishment of universal suffrage among white males of voting age in the United States was hastened by the democracy of the Western frontier, and a growing interest in political parties. The principle of universal manhood suffrage for whites was widely recognized toward the middle of the 19th century. This period which was characterized by a number of voting restrictions being removed is known as the "Age of Jackson" or "Age of the Common Man." However, even under this apparently "universal" franchise, the African Americans were denied the right to vote.

10.1b Expansion by Amendment

There were three great struggles over the right to vote. This right was expanded thanks to a number of essential constitutional amendments. The first struggle was against property tests for voting. It was argued by conservatives like Chancellor Kent of New York, that if the poor secured the right to vote, they would sell their votes to the rich. However by the middle of the 19th century property restrictions came to an end owing to the democratic, egalitarian mood of America and the desire of politicians to lower voting barriers so that they could secure votes.

The second struggle for Negro suffrage was aided by the Fifteenth Amendment (1870) to the Constitution which states that "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 race, color, or previous condition of servitude."

The third great struggle was related to women's suffrage. It was argued by husbands that women had no place at the polling booth and that husbands could vote for the entire family. Aroused by this, women organized noisy parades, drew up petitions, established a Washington lobby, picketed the White House, went on hunger strikes in jail and won a breakthrough in the Nineteenth Amendment (1920), which enfranchised women and doubled thus number of qualified voters in the United States. At the time of Vietnam War, it was felt that 18 year olds were old enough to vote, since they were old enough to join the defense services. This led to the Twenty-sixth amendment (ATI) which lowered the voting age to 18.


10.0 - Introduction
10.1 The Expansion of Suffrage
10.2 Obstacles to Voting
10.3 Voter Turnout
10.4 Voting Choices
10.5 Getting Nominated and Compaigning for Office
10.6 Electing Candidates to Office

Chapter 11

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