I Know My Rights!
There have been a lot of changes, conflicts and frustration along the subject of voting rights throughout the years. Voting rights have been granted and rescinded, restricted and loosened with catches and loopholes abounding among the states. What most people do not know or understand, however, is that we, as citizens, have no constitutional right to vote for President of these United States.
People love to say, with conviction, “I know my rights!”, but most of them don’t have any idea of what their rights are. There are a lot of assumptions about their constitutional rights, mostly from listening to other peoples’ rants about civil rights instead of reading the US Constitution themselves.
Each State had their own rules about who could vote
The constitution has a lot of phrases, clauses and amendments expressly stating way that people cannot be denied the right to vote because of race (effective 1870) or gender (effective 1920). Anyone over 18 years old can vote for their state legislators, the house members and senators, but the Constitution never explicitly ensures the right of the people to vote for President except for citizens of Washington DC.
Not everyone wanted equal voting rights.
The Constitution does require that Representatives be chosen and Senators be elected by “the People.” Aside from these requirements, though, the qualifications for voters are left to the states. Over the years the make up of “The People” has been changed many times to include or exclude people that the states have decided. As long as the qualifications do not conflict with anything in the Constitution, that right can be withheld. For example, in Texas, persons declared mentally incompetent and felons currently in prison or on probation are denied the right to vote.
Everything changes with time.
It is interesting to note that though the 26th Amendment requires that 18-year-olds must be able to vote, states can allow persons younger than 18 to vote, if they chose to. Originally, every free person over 18 had a vote, but some states excluded women or blacks, or Native Americans or Asians or Catholics. Eventually, however, all the states have included these groups.
Do you know your constitutional rights? You may be surprised to find out that you don’t know as much as you think you know.