Democracy is always defined by the citizens’ right to vote meaning that it will not be in existence if they are denied such an aspect. In this case, they should be free to choose their leaders and government as a whole. The founders of America did not believe in universal suffrage as expected but this has been improving as time goes by.
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In the initial stages, voters were required to own property and this therefore excluded 60% of the population from voting. As much as this was dropped, the 1800s saw a lot of women and slaves being excluded from voting (Stout, 2009, p. 29). The ratification of 1870 can be described as a major achievement because it secured voting in a broad way. The exclusion of women from voting continued up to 1920 when the country was able to grant all its citizens universal suffrage (Stout, 2009, p. 15).
This was mostly after the nineteenth amendment and later on the Indian citizenship act that gave a lot of people some citizenship rights. In this case, all Native Americans were grated some citizenship which was a big achievement. As much as this had been reviewed, people’s right to vote was still being governed by the state through different laws. Despite these developments, some states still barred Native Americans to vote.
In 1964, the qualifications for an individual to be eligible as a voter were reviewed. This means that various poll taxes and normal literacy tests were done away with. It should be known that this was enhanced by the twenty-fourth amendment.
Later on, in 1971 the legal age that was needed for a citizen to qualify as a voter was lowered. This meant that a person of 18 years of age was eligible to vote in any election. 1976 saw the voting rights act make a provision for translations to people who did not understand English as far as election materials are concerned (Finley, 2008, p. 35).
In relation to all these constitutional achievements, many people have come to appreciate the fact that United States provides for ultimate universal suffrage. As time has gone by, the law has insisted that any new state laws should be reviewed and approved by the country’s chief legal officer.
There is legal protection in relation to universal suffrage but the mentally incompetent have been excluded from voting which is acceptable. These are good developments that are likely to enhance universal suffrage but different people have argued that it is not enough. This means that all citizens should be effectively represented in government for long term sustainability in relation to democracy.
There are various challenges to fair and equal voting practices that need to be sorted out in elections at various levels. This can be either at the federal, state and local levels of elections. Representative democracy has emerged as a challenge that needs to be sorted out because there are people who might be chosen to represent the interests of voters as leaders yet they fail in their duties. Oppressive attitudes have been seen in various areas and this will limit equal voting rights in relation to administrative positions (Stout, 2009, p. 54).
Another challenge to fair and equal voting practices is political redistricting practices because this is likely to weaken the gains that have been made in the past years. It should be known that voters’ rights have been protected by amendments to the constitution but poll worker recruitment might end up challenging the minority vote (Finley, 2008, p. 68). There is an argument that equal and sustainable education has not been achieved in the country and this does not provide an equal electoral opportunity.
Finley, K. (2008). Delaying the Dream: Southern Senators and the Fight against Civil Rights, 1938-1965. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press.
Stout, D. (2009). Justices Let Stand a Central Provision of Voting Rights Act. New York: The New York Times.