What You Need to Know About Voting–and Why | Kim Wehle

Summary of: What You Need to Know About Voting–and Why
By: Kim Wehle


In ‘What You Need to Know About Voting—and Why’, Kim Wehle demystifies the complexities of the American voting system. The book provides a comprehensive understanding of the rules, regulations, and essential steps of voting. Throughout the book, Wehle highlights vital aspects, such as the National Voter Registration Act, ballot procedures, constitutional amendments impacting voting rights, and the intricacies of the Electoral College. As readers delve into this engaging summary, they will learn about the impact of technology, gerrymandering, Senate malapportionment, and money in politics on the democratic process. This instructive and well-organized account serves as a simplified guide to understanding the importance and nuances of voting within the diverse American system.

The Complexity of Voter Registration in the United States

Voter registration is not mandatory in the United States, leading to a decrease in voter turnout compared to compulsory voting countries. The National Voter Registration Act enables all citizens to register to vote at their state Department of Motor Vehicles, but registration procedures across states can be uneven. Instead of those who register, the real problem lies with those who do not register to vote.

Casting Ballots in the US

Voting procedures vary by state, making voting rights different across the country; for example, some states require specific forms of identification, and all states offer different types of absentee ballots. This discrepancy impacts citizens’ ability to vote, and mistakes in voter registration can occur. To avoid this, voters should keep their personal information up-to-date or request a provisional ballot if they face registration issues. Additionally, out-of-state students should either register in their new state or request an absentee ballot to vote in their home state. Other rules, such as not wearing campaign paraphernalia to the voting booth, may also apply.

Ensuring Safe Voting

Ballot design varies in the US, making voting confusing and prone to errors. Tampering with digital-only machines is also a threat, and technical issues cause delays. To ensure the right to vote, citizens must insist on voting, even if facing technical difficulties. They can also contact Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, who can seek injunctions to ensure voting rights.

Voting Accessibility and Exclusion

The accessibility of polling stations is required by laws like the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Voting Accessibility for the Elderly and Handicapped Act. However, enforcement is weak, and not all locations comply with providing election ballots in languages other than English as required by the Voting Rights Act of 1975. Noncitizens, homeless individuals, and those with felony convictions are also excluded from the democratic process. These rules impact a notable portion of the population, and it’s essential to enforce policies that enable them to participate in elections.

The Right to Vote in the US Constitution

The US Constitution doesn’t explicitly mention the right to vote but protects it through preventing certain people from being denied the right to vote and allowing states to determine voter qualifications. The Constitution also mentions the process for selecting members of Congress. Amendments have extended voting rights to male citizens, Black men, women, Washington, DC residents, and lowered the voting age to 18. The right to vote remains a significant part of civic duty.

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