The USA is considered to be one of the most democratic states in the world. However, many Americans still face many challenges regarding their voting rights, a core value of any democracy. Therefore, deeper research of this topic is crucial and requires the knowledge I already possess and posing new questions and searching for answers to them. To make my understanding of the topic more holistic, I would analyze voting rights in the US from four perspectives or through four lenses of liberal arts: history, humanities, natural sciences, and social sciences.
What Was Known about Voting Rights in the US
Before my research, I knew only general information about the US citizens’ voting rights set and protected by Voting and Election Laws. For instance, any US citizen who meets the state’s residency requirements is 18 years old (or would be by Election Day), and registered to vote can participate in the elections (USA Government, 2021). The additional restrictions include lack of citizenship (even if one is a permanent legal resident), felony convictions, and some types of mental incapacities (USA Government, 2021). They address various physical (an age and a mental state) and social (registration, citizenship, and convict status) aspects.
However, legal restrictions might not be the only obstacle for those wishing to participate in the elections. Throughout US history, many potential voters suffered from different types of discrimination based on their race, literacy level, income, and gender (Richardson, 2020). To eliminate it, The Voting Rights Act’s Section 2 prohibits any racial or linguistic discrimination in voting practices (United States Department of Justice, 2021). In brief, I had a basic understanding of the historical background of the voting rights issues (moral, philosophical, and linguistic), closely connected to the humanities’ field of research.
What Needs to Be Researched
Before proceeding with the research, it is necessary to determine its focus and direction. To do so, I posed several questions that I need to address to get a deeper understanding of the real situation around the voting rights of Americans:
- What voting rights challenges are the Americans currently facing? Is there a difference between the historical and contemporary voting rights challenges?
- Does the Voting Rights Act address all the challenges of American voters?
- Which policies are available for potentially resolving voting rights within the United States?
In brief, I will look deeper at the topic’s historical background, identify some physical, social, and moral challenges that affect modern voters, and check whether all these aspects are addressed in the Voting Rights Act. Finally, I will highlight some available policies aimed at helping everyone get equal access to voting ballots. These are the useful keywords: government, political processes, polling, ballots, legislation and law, election districts, voting rights, United States, Voting Rights Act, challenges and opportunities in voting rights, political science, immigration, races, campaigning, and voting regulations.
What Was Learned during the Research
Inequality in US voting rights is not a new problem, so the historical perspective is vital for resolving modern challenges. Yang (2019) noted that the Constitution originally gave voting rights only to “white males owing property, meeting religious requirements, and paying poll taxes” (p. 20). Later, some requirements were removed, but female exclusion, poll taxes, and literacy tests remained (Yang, 2019). A significant point in fighting discrimination was the adoption of the Voting Rights Act in 1965. It aimed to increase “Black voter registration and participation” in the elections (Moore, 2021, p.1).
Even though it enabled many representatives of racial and linguistic minorities to vote, not all the vulnerable social groups are covered, including felons, people with no identification document, and permanent legal residents.
The humanities’ perspective of discriminated groups’ fight for their rights suggests addressing various cultural trends. An illustrative example is the white dresses worn by British suffragists in the twentieth century (Wahl, 2017). White was often seen as a symbol of female “delicacy” and “fashionability” (Wahl, 2017, p. 21). The suffragists’ choice included many cultural connotations but its main practical purpose was to highlight the female presence and importance in society (Wahl, 2017). Thus, looking at the issue from the humanities’ lens, one can see how impactful the gender inequality crisis was as it made women utilize all available tools to make themselves seen and heard.
One modern trend is considered a new problem by one group of people and a unique opportunity to overcome some of the existing obstacles by others. This new trend is online voting which has its advantages and disadvantages. On the one hand, it is still not secure and lacks integrity due to a higher risk of large-scale fraud (Orman, 2019). On the other hand, it is more transparent and fast as the votes count is done automatically (Orman, 2019).
Moreover, Orman (2019) presents it as a way to make voting more accessible to a larger number of people, as one does not need to go anywhere and pay for polling station maintenance. Thus, once secure software for voting is developed, citizens from distant and rural areas and those fearing discrimination would be more inclined to participate in the elections conveniently. Therefore, it seems to be a good policy to adopt from the perspectives of humanities, social and natural sciences.
In conclusion, I made an overview of what I knew, what I wanted to know, and what I learned about voting challenges in the US. I looked at all of these aspects from the perspectives of different sciences: history, humanities, social and natural sciences. I managed to answer all the posed questions, but further research might be necessary to study some challenges in detail.
Moore, W.V. (2021). Voting Rights Act of 1965. Salem Press Encyclopedia.
Orman, H. (2019). Online voting: We can do it! (We have to). Communications of the ACM, 62(9), 25-27. Web.
Richardson, P. E. (2021). Preclearance and politics: The future of the Voting Rights Act. University of Cincinnati Law Review, 89(4), 1089-1109. Web.
United States Department of Justice. (2021). Guidance under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, 52 U.S.C. 10301, for redistricting and methods of electing government bodies. Web.
USA Government. (2021). Who can and can’t vote in U.S. elections. Web.
Wahl, K. (2017). Purity and parity: The white dress of the suffrage movement in early twentieth-century Britain. In J. Faiers & M.W. Bulgarella (Eds.), Colors in fashion (pp. 21-34). Berg Fashion Library.
Yang, E. (2019). Ensuring access to the ballot box. Insights on Law & Society, 20(1), 20-25. Web.