Voting Rights on Trial

A Handbook with Cases, Laws, and Documents

by Charles L. Zelden


An open franchise is vital to the survival of democracy. Yet for the past two centuries women, immigrants, blacks, Hispanics, Native Americans, poor people, and others have all faced organized efforts to obstruct their participation in the political process. The problem is still with us today.

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Cover image for Voting Rights on Trial

January 2002


Pages 347
Volumes 1
Size 6x9
Topics Politics, Law, and Government/Human Rights and Civil Liberties
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Explores and documents the causes and effects of the long history of vote denial on American politics, culture, law, and society.

The debate over who can and cannot vote has been "on trial" since the American Revolution. Throughout U.S. history, the franchise has been awarded and denied on the basis of wealth, status, gender, ethnicity, and race. Featuring a unique mix of analysis and documentation, Voting Rights on Trial illuminates the long, slow, and convoluted path by which vote denial and dilution were first addressed, and then defeated, in the courts.

Four narrative chapters survey voting rights from colonial times to the 2000 presidential election, focus on key court cases, and examine the current voting climate. The volume includes analysis of voting rights in the new century and their implications for future electoral contests. The coverage concludes with selections of documents from cases discussed, relevant statutes and amendments, and other primary sources.


  • A timeline giving the history of voting rights from 1619, when Virginia planters voted for the first time, to 2000, when the Supreme Court invalidated Florida's recount process, which ultimately determined the outcome of the election
  • Excerpts of key legal documents including Reynolds v. Sims (one person, one vote) and Bush v. Gore (debate over nationalization of voting rights)


  • Analyzes the 2000 presidential election controversy, including the Supreme Court's famous ruling in Bush v. Gore
  • Provides comprehensive and accessible discussions of the contested nature of voting rights, from the start of the republic to the new century
  • Summarizes the many voting laws, rules, and practices that withheld the franchise from "undeserving" individuals
Author Info

Charles L. Zelden is associate professor of history at Nova Southeastern University, Ft. Lauderdale, FL.



"Most libraries will find this volume a useful addition to their political science, history, and legal collections."American Reference Books Annual

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