High School Students (Grades 7-12)
The Expansion of Voting Rights
Voting Rights Exercise Answer Key Handout
- The Twenty-sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution, adopted in 1971, guarantees the right to vote to citizens who are eighteen years and older.
- The U.S. Supreme Court in Harper v. Virginia State Board of Elections, 383 U.S. 663 (1966), struck down a similar poll tax as a violation of the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The Court said, "Voter qualifications have no relation to wealth nor to paying or not paying this or any other tax." The Twenty-fourth Amendment abolished poll taxes in all federal elections.
- This case is based on Richardson v. Ramirez, 418 U.S. 24 (1974), in which the Supreme Court held that the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment does not prohibit a state from disenfranchising convicted felons who had completed their sentence and paroles. The Court relied heavily on Section Two of the Fourteenth Amendment, which allows for the abridgement of the franchise for "participation in rebellion or other crime."
- The Voting Rights Act of 1965 (as amended in 1970, 1975 and 1982) bans literacy tests as a requirement of voting. The Supreme Court in South Carolina v. Katzenbach upheld the constitutionality of this provision of the Voting Rights Act.
- The Supreme Court in Dunn v. Blumstein, 405 U.S. 330 (1972), struck down a Tennessee law similar to this example. The Court said that residency requirements were not valid "unless the State can demonstrate that such laws are 'necessary to promote a compelling government interest.'"
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