It has been charged that one who does not exercise his voting privilege not only
shirks his duty to both country and self, but is, in reality, only half a citizen.
FEW will argue that the spirit of a
nation is reflected in its nomination and election procedures.
"•here there are dictatorships, the people can be herded like animals to the
Polls and forced to vote — without
teally giving them a choice as to a
J-*ndidate. Moreover, they may even
J6 required to rejoice later when their
-candidate" is "elected."
, A free election, however, with free
| c«Oice of candidates, actually tends to
**alt the voter. When a citizen casts
">s ballot, he knows that his "voice"
Wil li,. heard. A free election in this
Pountry, conducted with dignity, is
jVtnboh'c of the American way of life.
'"'ctions are closely detailed, so as to
Ittard against fraud. Yet at the- same
tale the honest voter is not shackled.
•ccording tit the Constitution, Con-
"*,('Vs may decide how and when its
Nmbers shall be chosen. Also, it may
'-'hiinine the time of choosing prcsi-
ll|'iitial electors, as well as where these
i*Ctors shall meet to east ballots for
•*e President. However, the federal
pvernmenl has always exercised min-
'"'ini controls in this respect.
I'he individual states regulate elec-
'°ns to a marked degree, for not only
.'r|' elections run by the states, but
taty are also paid for by them. In
?r"<-'r to insure an honest vote-, the
rSslature ol each state has compiled
*''ciok of election laws and rules.1
Naturally, it is the patriotic duty of
each American citizen to east his ballot. His voice in the government may
be small, but it xvill be heard. One
who is an eligible voter, and who does
not exercise his privilege, is shirking
his duty to both himself and his Country, and is, in reality, only half a citizen. Indeed, il has been charged that
there is more voter indifference today
than there has been in many years.
For example, the United States' estimated civilian population and votes
cast for presidential electors are as
In 1936 there Were only 57 per cent
of eligible citizens who voted.
In 1941 there were only 53 per rent
of eligible citizens who voted.
In 1952 then- were only 63 per cent
of clifsihlc citizens who voted.
Most people grow up with the
thought thai voting is now and has
always been something of an inalienable right. However, this is not true-.
Certainly many of the early great men
of this nation entertained no such
idea. As a matter of fact, Alexander
Hamilton SO distrusted the motives of
most individuals and all public bodies
that he said the President and members of the Senate should be chosen
for life rather than by periodic voting.
There were others who believed that
only a qualified majority should vote.
Property owners were the only ones
allowed to have a hand in the selec
tion of public officials in the early history of this country. However, after
the American Revolution, the people
began to demand greater voting
Andrew Jackson was one of the
early proponents of equal suffrage,
and he campaigned as hard for his
rough-hewn ideas as he did in the
actual battles which he fought. From
Jackson's time until the present there
have been two strong forces at work.
One force would extend suffrage to
more and more people. The other
force would improve the quality of
\otcis by stipulating that the voter
must have certain qualifications.
A striking omission in the Constitution concerns the issue of voting
rights. Actually, the right is given to
no one. The architects of the Constitution simply insisted that only those
eligible to participate in electing members of the more numerous branches
of the state legislature shall be entitled to vote for federal officials.
A century ancl a quarter later the
Seventeenth Amendment applied the
same rule to the election of United
States senators. The adoption of the
Fifteenth Amendment, at the close of
the war between the states, provided,
(Continued an page 46)
'Robert Hienow, American C-eei wrnmsnl in To-
tbty'i World (Be.sIee,,, 1950), p. 144.
*Hsirry Hansen, editor, The Worid Almanac and
Book of Facts (New York, 1956), p. 256.
Forum News, November, 1956