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Researching Election & Voting Law

Highlights

U.S. Constitutional Amendments

Voting Rights Act

Federal Election Campaign Act

National Voter Registration Act

Help America Vote Act

U.S. Constitutional Amendments

Many of the amendments to the U.S. Constitution are concerned with voting and election procedures:

* The 12th Amendment clarified that each elector of the electoral college casts two votes, one for president and one for vice president

* The 15th Amendment barred racial discrimination in voting

* The 17th Amendment gave people the right to directly elect their U.S. Senators, rather than having them elected by state legislative bodies

* The 19th Amendment granted women the right to vote

* The 23rd Amendment granted electoral votes to Washington, D.C.

* The 24th Amendment eliminated poll taxes

* The 26th Amendment lowered the voting age to 18

In addition,

* The 1st Amendment granted the rights of freedom of speech and freedom of assembly

* The 14th Amendment granted the right of equal protection

* The 20th, 22nd, and 25th Amendments address term limits and succession to the office of the presidency

Voting Rights Act, Pub. L. 89-110, 79 Stat. 437 (1965)

Voting Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1973 et seq.

  • Prohibited discriminatory voting practices that had previously disenfranchised African Americans and other minorities.
  • Requires that "No voting qualification or other prerequisites to voting, or standard, practice or procedure, may be imposed or applied by any state or political subdivision to deny or abridge the right of any citizen of the United States to vote on account of race or color, or membership in a language minority group."
  • Allows the Attorney General to bring civil actions in federal court to enforce its requirements. Also imposes criminal penalties for acts related to interference with voting rights.

Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA), Pub. L. 92-225, 86 Stat. 11 (1971)

Federal Election Campaign Act, 2 U.S.C. § 431 et seq.

  • Major amendments in 1974, 1976, 1979, and 2002.
  • Increased disclosure requirements for campaign contributions, placed limits on contributions and expenditures, provided for public financing of presidential campaigns, and created the U.S. Federal Election Commission (FEC) to oversee enforcement.
  • The 2002 amendments were also called the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA) or McCain-Feingold Act.
    • Includes "stand by your ad" provision

National Voter Registration Act, Pub. L. 103-31, 107 Stat. 77 (1993)

National Voter Registration Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1973gg et seq.

Also known as the "Motor Votor Act."

  • Enacted to enhance voting opportunities for all Americans.
  • Requires states, inter alia:
    • To provide the opportunity to register to vote at the same time as applying for or renewing a driver's license.
  • Provides that citizens can register to vote using mail-in forms.
  • Allows the Attorney General to bring civil actions in federal court to enforce its requirements.