US Federalism

Voting, Elections and US Federalism: The State Government Perspective

Voting, Elections and US Federalism: The State Government Perspective

Abstract

State governments in the U.S. exercise broad authority over elections and maintain a diverse set of rules regulating the process of registering to vote, casting ballots, and drawing congressional district lines, and even determining in some respects who is eligible to vote.  In this contribution, I highlight the significant discretion that states exercise in making election rules and the range of rules in effect in the 50 states.  I also take note of several ways that the scope of state authority is subject to modification by the Supreme Court and Congress, focusing on some recent and pending Supreme Court cases and congressional acts with the potential to broaden or constrain state authority.

 

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Posted by John Dinan in Case Studies, 0 comments
Voting, Elections and US Federalism: The Federal Government Perspective

Voting, Elections and US Federalism: The Federal Government Perspective

Abstract

This article examines the U.S. Constitution’s treatment of voting and elections and the use that the federal government has made of the powers granted to it by the Constitution.  Because the thirteen states that formed the nation differed in the qualifications they imposed for voting, the Constitution originally avoided setting national qualifications, authorizing persons to vote in federal elections if they could vote for the lower house of their state legislature. Constitutional amendments have established a federal floor on voting qualifications, forbidding discrimination based on race, gender, age, and ability to pay a poll tax. States have largely regulated both their own and federal elections, but the Constitution grants the federal government concurrent authority in this area, and the constitutional amendments have granted it authority to enact “appropriate legislation” to enforce their prohibitions of discrimination.  Congress relied on that authority to adopt the Voting Rights Act of 1965, giving the federal government unprecedented power to supervise state elections and voting regulations.  This power has been circumscribed by Supreme Court rulings in recent years, leading Democrats in Congress to introduce bills to restore that power. Congress has also legislated to facilitate voting more generally, though Republicans have sought instead to restrict voting, claiming that this will combat election fraud. A major piece of legislation, the For the People Act, is currently before Congress, designed to nationalize election regulations and facilitate voting, but it faces strong Republican opposition, and its fate is uncertain.

 

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Posted by Alan Tarr in Case Studies, 0 comments