“The right to vote,” said British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, “is the foundation of all democracy.”
Voting is a privilege and a right. According to the Declaration of Independence, “Governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed,” and if the government violated their rights, the people had the right to “alter or abolish it.”
The two ways to alter or abolish government were the bullet or the ballot. The framers of the Constitution chose the latter. To them, it was the best social engineering technique to settle conflicts between people without bloodshed.
Moreover, the framers of the Constitution included the First Amendment to the Constitution. It states that “Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech on the press.” Both are basic to a free society. In a democracy, the people act as a great jury, hearing the arguments of opposing sides, and then casting their votes on the issues of the day.
Most importantly, the people are the ultimate authority in a democracy. To Thomas Jefferson, if the government was to best serve the people, they must hear everything, true or false, from opposing sides of the issues.
Nevertheless, the leaders of the American Revolution limited voting at both the state and federal levels. Most states, for instance, restricted the right to vote to those who owned property or to church members. At the federal level, the authors of the Constitution limited voting to white males with the power to choose only the lower house of
From the first, the rise of political parties deprived the electoral college of some of its powers. The nominations of presidential 2candidates also became more democratic by transferring power away from party caucuses to primary elections.
Subsequent amendments also transferred the power to elect U.S. senators from state legislatures to the people and gave African Americans and women the right to vote.
Still, the expansion of the right to vote was a tough and long struggle, and many Americans suffered oppression and pain in their efforts to get it.
Dr. Wainstock is a member of Upshur County Indivisible, a non-partisan political and education group. He is also the author of the “ 1968 Presidential Campaign and Election” along with other books, and a Fairmont State University Adjunct Professor in American History.