CIVICS LESSON #3 (UNIT 2)
VOTERS AND VOTER BEHAVIOR
1792 white, male property owners.
It is probable that not 1 in 15 adults could vote in 1789.
NOW: 220,000 million Americans can vote
Benjamin Franklin made fun of the situation by saying
he knew a man who owned a jackass.
He said, “If the jackass died the man would lose the
right to vote.”
There have been five major stages in the development of
SUFFRAGE WAS ORIGINALLY ONLY
EXTENDED TO WHITE, MALE
STAGE ONE: THE EARLY 1800S
Religious qualifications were the first qualifications
By 1810, there were no religious qualifications to
Soon property qualifications fell away.
1850, no State required individuals to own property
in order to vote.
most white males in the nation could vote.
BY 1850, MOST WHITE MALES
STAGE TWO: POST-CIVIL-WAR
15th and 16th amendments were designed to protect all
(male) citizens from being denied the right to vote.
African Americans in some parts of the country were
denied the right, in various degrees, for the next one
African American men were given the right to vote
following the Civil War; however, this right was still
denied many of these individuals
THIRD STAGE: 1920S
the Nineteenth Amendment was passed in 1920.
The Nineteenth Amendment prohibited denying
the right to vote based on gender.
Women had won the right to vote.
THREE WOMEN VOTING IN 1920
FOURTH STAGE: 1960S
finally extended real suffrage to African Americans.
One of the pivotal pieces of legislation was the Voting Rights
Act of 1965.
African American voting rights activists were murdered in the
South in the years that led up to the passage of the landmark
The federal government grew tired of Southern States ignoring
federal voting law.
The Act made literacy tests and similar litmus tests illegal.
AFRICAN AMERICANS FINALLY WERE
GUARANTEED THE RIGHT TO VOTE IN
FIFTH STAGE: 1970S
The Vietnam War: many young people to question
the morality of a system that could send a person to
die but not allow him/her to vote.
result: the Twenty Sixth Amendment was passed.
no State could set a minimum voting age above 18
years of age.
POWER TO SET
The power to set voter qualifications is
given to the states by the Constitution.
Constitution does place five restrictions
on the states:
1. Whomever within a state is allowed to vote for the
members of the most numerous branch of its own
legislature must be allowed to vote for representatives
and senators in Congress.
If you can vote for state legislators you must be able to vote for
2. No state can deprive a person
of the right to vote on the basis
of race or color.
(15 th Amendment)
3. No person may deprive a
person from voting on the basis of
4. A state may not require a tax as a condition of
voting for any federal office holder, including the
President, Vice-President, or a member of Congress.
5. No person may deprive a
person who is at least 18
years of age from voting on
the basis of age.
(26 th Amendment)
States must also not violate any other part of the
Constitution when setting up voting restrictions.
1970s Texas law stated that only people who owned taxable
property could vote in municipal bond elections.
SC said that drawing a distinction between property
owners and non-property owners was a violation of the
Equal Protection Clause of the 14 th Amendment.
The law was struck down.
WHO MAY NOT VOTE TODAY?
There are still limitations on voting in the present.
Non-citizens are not allowed to vote in any
This is not a Constitutional limitation. Indeed, any State
could allow non-citizens to vote if the chose.
Despite the prohibition, it is known that a few non-
citizens do vote; however, how large the number is, is
WHO MAY VOTE TODAY?
require that individuals live within the State for a period of time before voting
This requirement used to be up to one year long, but the amount of time is
much less in the present.
Congress said in a presidential election year the waiting time cannot be longer
than one month.
REASON FOR RESTRICTIONS
These restrictions are in place for two reasons:
1. To prevent parties from shipping people
from one state to another for the purpose
2. States feel that a voter should have at
least some familiarity with State before they
are allowed to vote.
WHO MAY VOTE TODAY?
Registration: Forty-nine state require voters to
is designed to prevent voter fraud.
Note: North Dakota does not require registration.
In Wisconsin, and a few other states, only voters in
urban areas need to register.
Why would people in rural areas not have to
Note: Some individuals would like to do away with voter
registration, because they believe it tends to reduce voter
turnout among the poor and less educated.
Registration requirements usually requires that you
provide your name, age, date of birth, and present
A person usually remains registered unless the
individuals moves, dies, is convicted of a serious crime.
Every two to four years registration officials are
supposed to PURGE the registration roles of individuals
who are no longer eligible to vote.
WHO MAY NOT VOTE TODAY?
Individuals who are mentally incompetent may not vote.
Individuals who have been convicted of serious crimes
may not vote.
In a few States the following individuals cannot vote:
dishonorably discharged veterans, the homeless, and
THE PROBLEM OF NONVOTING
Except in rare instances, fewer than half of the people eligible to vote turn
out for any given election.
Other people vote but forget to vote in all the elections on the ballot.
In the 1996 presidential election, 14 million people voted for President who
did not vote for a congressional representative.
WHY PEOPLE DO NOT VOTE
1996 presidential election 5-6 million people did not vote because they were
2-3million did not vote because of sudden travel plans.
1 million did not vote due to being in jail.
100,000 people (at a minimum) did not vote due to religious beliefs.
1996 presidential election 80 million people who were eligible to
vote simply chose not to vote.
Reasons for choosing not to vote:
1. People feel that their vote makes no difference.
2. Some individuals are happy with the political world as it is. They believe
that no matter who gets elected their life will still go well.
3. A large number stay away because they do not trust politics or politicians.
They believe the system has been taken over by insiders and the media.
4. Cumbersome elections procedures = difficult to register, long lines at the
polling place, or long ballots.
5. The number one reason is lack of interest or they do not want to be
bothered…usually highly uniformed.
PROFILE OF THOSE WHO VOTE
1. High Level of Education
2. Higher Income
3. Higher Occupational Status
4. Strong sense of party identification
5. Easy to register
CHARACTERISTICS OF PEOPLE
WHO DO NOT VOTE
1. Younger than 35
2. Not married
4. Tend to live in the
South or rural areas
We are going to look closer at voter characteristics in a minute.
STUDYING VOTER BEHAVIOR
How do we know who votes and why?
1. ANALYSIS OF ELECTIONS
study the results of an election from a particular neighborhood or
community that is dominated by one ethnic group, religious group, or socio-
economic class, they will obtain information about how particular groups
voted across a county, state, or the nation.
STUDYING VOTER BEHAVIOR
Researchers will call and interview individuals in person about
their voting habits.
home location, etc.
If enough people are interviewed, researchers can draw
conclusions about how entire groups voted or will vote.
STUDYING VOTER BEHAVIOR
3. POLITICAL SOCIALIZATION
long-term study of all the factors and influences
in a person’s life that have led her/him to how
she/he views the political world in the present.
Individuals who earn less are more likely to be registered
Conversely, individuals with higher incomes are more likely to be
This pattern has held up for a long time.
In 2004 voters :
with incomes below 15K backed Senator John Kerry by a 3 to 2 margin
100k + supported GW 3 to 2 margin.
White collar: tend to vote Republican
Blue collar: tend to vote Democratic.
OCCUPATION SEEMS TO
Business People Tend to Manual Laborers Tend
Vote Republican To Vote Democratic
VOTING BEHAVIOR: EDUCATION
college degrees vote= Democrat
High School diplomas = Republican
VOTING BEHAVIOR: GENDER
There has not always been a difference between how men and women voted.
Forty years ago ethnicity, occupation, and education tended to determine how
men and women voted.
1980s a gap between how men and women emerged.
To d a y, w e c a l l i t t h e g e n d e r ga p .
Women tend to favor the Democratic Party
by a margin of 5% to 10%.
This gap is most profound when elections
involve issues of abortion, healthcare, social
welfare programs, and military involvement
It seems that once a
person begins to vote
for a particular party,
he/she is more likely
than not to continue
to vote for that party
There are very few people who won’t move away from a
particular party’s candidate, if they feel that they have a
good enough reason:
A. Care deeply about a particular issue (this has been
gaining in influence over the past 40 years).
B. Strong like or dislike for a particular candidate
C. Credible evidence of corruption, criminal activity, or
In some cases a very popular candidate may cause people to vote
for other candidates of the same party.
This is known as the coattail effect.
2008 Obama’s helped many Democrats get elected to Congress.
Democrats took back control of the Senate and the House of
super majority 60 to 40
If people have a strong dislike of a major candidate in a state or
federal election, it can cause them to turn completely against that
party and its other candidates.