The Evolution of the Franchise: Voting Through the Years. This essay explicates the evolution of who our government has allowed to vote and how changes came about

Essay by JenemartUniversity, Bachelor'sA, April 2002

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"The first constitutional principle of our people is their right to make and ultimately (one hopes) to correct their own mistakes," said Mr. Arthur Sutherland (Ross, 258). This right of the individual citizens is demonstrated in the concept of the constitution as a living, changing document. When our founding fathers formed our government, with the governing document to be the constitution, one of the main issues was the ability of the constitution to be able to evolve and change over time. The personal right of an individual to make decisions comes along with the right to vote. At the present time, almost all citizens over the age of eighteen have non-restricted voting rights. However, American history has not always demonstrated this much freedom concerning the right of franchise. "Restrictions on the franchise have been effective and persistent throughout our history, and only through long and difficult negotiations have restrictions been lifted and the franchise extended" (Ross, 261).

There are four constitutional amendments that have contributed to the expansion of the franchise. They include the fifteenth amendment, concerning voting rights in general, as well as the nineteenth, twenty-fourth, and twenty-sixth, all of which deal with factors such as sex, race, and age, respectively.

The first amendment to the constitution that contributed to the expansion of the franchise was the fifteenth amendment, ratified March 30, 1870. The fifteenth amendment deals with the subject of voting rights in two parts. First of all, the amendment states that the right to vote will not be denied...on the account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude. The second section of this amendment states that Congress shall have the power to enforce this amendment with legislation that is deemed appropriate. The passage of this amendment started the wheels turning toward the day of equality in...