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Must Voting (as opposed to Suffrage) Be More or Less Universal?

Posted 01-15-2022 at 11:20 AM by jbgusa

Must Voting (as opposed to Suffrage) Be More or Less Universal

This thread is occasioned by the latest Congressional activity on voting rights. For background, I have selected an article I do not agree with, see What is in the 2022 voting rights bill? However, it is relatively balanced and reasonable. I do not wish this thread to have partisan bickering, which is why I selected an article with an opposing view to mine. A brief survey of voting in this country and to a lesser extent Britain is required.

The concept of government by consent of the governed is not new. There was a period of Greek democracy in ancient times. The Roman Republic is well known. For more history, see Cicero: Defender of the Roman Republic. Later, in Iceland, there was the Althing, the world's oldest (more or less) functioning Parliament. See Icelandic Parliament - History and location of the Althing

Originally Posted by Icelandic Parliament - History and location of the Althing
Iceland's first parliament, the Althing (Icelandic: Alþingi), was established in Thingvellir National Park in 930 AD - a flag stands in the exact spot today in commemoration. After several centuries being run by a government that was highly advanced for its time, the history and politics of Iceland changed when it was conquered by Denmark.

Under colonial rule, the Althing lost all power except as a court of law, until the 19th century when a growing nationalist movement spread across Iceland. The desire for independence took shape with the establishment of a new Icelandic Parliament in the same building where it is located today, which at that time also served to store the works of art that would later be in the National Museum of Iceland.
The Magna Cara came later. As described in the UK Parliament site (link):
Originally Posted by UK Parliament site
Magna Carta was issued in June 1215 and was the first document to put into writing the principle that the king and his government was not above the law. It sought to prevent the king from exploiting his power, and placed limits of royal authority by establishing law as a power in itself.


Raising taxes made John increasingly unpopular with the English barons, whom the king relied on to assist him in governing the kingdom. The immediate cause of the Barons' rebellion was the decisive defeat in battle of King John's army at Bouvines in 1214, by the force of the king of France. This, together with John's personality and ruthless actions, which seem to have provoked hostility and fear in others more than the loyalty on which kings of this period had to rely, caused much opposition among the barons. The defeat at Bouvines led to the meeting at Runnymede, but opposition to the king had been brewing for longer; in 1212 there had been rumours of a plot to murder him.
Magna Carta was hammered out in negotiations between the leaders of two armed parties – the king on one side and the rebel barons on the other. Neither side expected it to settle the matter, and both anticipated continued war between king and barons.
The Magna Carta was almost immediately annulled, and then after King John's death reinstated. It remains a basis for liberal rule in the Anglosphere, including the U.S.

Neither Britain nor the U.S. initially made the vote available to all. In the beginning only male white property owners could vote. This in the U.S. evolved into a potential voter either having property or money. Inflation thus widely broadened the base of those who could vote. I credit my Cornell history professor, Professor Silbey of blessed memory for teaching this. The 15th Amendment in theory broadened voters to include former slaves, though until the Voting Rights Act of 1965 this was honored more in the breach than reality.

Also important was the woman's suffrage movements of both the U.S. and the U.K. Women got the right to vote in the waning days of WW I, though some states, surprising Wyoming, granted it earlier. The voting age was reduced from 21 to 18 in 1971. Literacy tests and poll taxes,which were blatantly discriminatory against minorities, also fell during the 1960s.

The current battle is far different. The dance is to make voting not only universally available, but available without a modicum of effort on the part of the voter. My view is that voters should be incentivized to educate themselves about what they are voting on, who they are voting for. I welcome others' views.
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