The American Electorate

Requirements to vote and types of voters

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The extension of the franchise

In order to vote:

  • Americans must be registered to vote in the state in which they LIVE.
    • HOWEVER over last 40 years - have been MAAAJOOORRRR changes to the rules that govern who precisely may register!

The original constitutional doc. gave states the right to control many of the rules governing elections within their territory.

  • Following defeat in the Civil War, many southern states introduced complicated rules that prevented Blacks from voting in elections.
  • These rules could NOT be explicit (ie. Blacks can't vote) because that would have been against the 14th Amendment's equal protection clause.
  • Instead - many introduced poll taxes or 'Grandfather Clause' (can only vote if your grandfather did) or bias literary tests!
    • Fed. Government EVENTUALLY moved to confront these restrictions = 24th Amendment of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
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The impact


Alabama - 19.3% registered blacks pre-1964/51% registered blacks 1968

Mississippi - 6.7% to 59.8%

These measures were then followed by:

  • 1970, The Voting Rights Act which gave all 18-year olds the vote in fed elections
  • 1971, 26th Amendment which extended 18-year old rule to ALL elections!
  • These two reforms increased size of electorate by 11 million!!!
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