Professor Steve Bickerstaff Discusses the Constitution and Voting in the US
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Professor Steve Bickerstaff Discusses the Constitution and Voting in the US

[ Silence ]>>There is no more critical
aspect of any democracy than the right to vote but the
Constitution itself did not, at the end of the 18th century
nor today, create a right to vote for any person
or group of people. The authority to determine who
votes was vested in the states and it meant that, at that
time, for most states, only free white men
above the age of 25 and with property
were allowed to vote. Now this changed. It gradually changed as some
states enlarged the suffrage, right of suffrage but it took a
horrendous Civil War and no less than 6 amendments to the United
States Constitution to bring us to the broad right of
suffrage that we have today where the Constitution still
does not grant the right to vote. It simply prohibits government
from discriminating on the basis of race, gender, payment
of the poll tax, et cetera. And I think I should mention
the Voting Rights Act itself. It is a remarkable piece of
legislation, extraordinary. There is no other
legislation like it in the world that I have found. It has been an effective
means of providing for the ultimate
election of members of the protected
minority groups. And it’s been very
effective in that regard. For example, in 1965, the passage of the Act
there were 3 black members of the United States
House of Representatives. Today, there are 43. Even though the percentage
of white population in the United States
has not increased. And you see an even greater
increase in the number of black elected officials
at the state and local level. And this had a dramatic affect
on the United States and it’s, in my view, part of the
reason why we are willing to support a candidate
such as Barack Obama. [ Silence ]

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