THE RIGHT TO VOTE by Bill Severn


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Severn views the extension of voting rights to eighteen-year-olds as the final step in a process by which the ""American people have at long last achieved every citizen's right to vote."" Here is the key to his book's shortcomings; the gradual expansion Of the suffrage is regarded as an inevitable evolutionary process brought about by public demand and political maneuvering on the floors of Congress and the State Legislatures. There is no background on the social and intellectual forces which caused Franklin's democratic ideas to triumph over the concern for property rights which most of the founding fathers championed; nor is there any evaluation of how (or whether) electoral reforms have effected policies. If what you want is a quick review of the key names, dates and legislation behind the granting of votes to non-freeholders, women and Negroes, the fight for the direct election of Senators and the adoption of the ""Australian Ballot,"" Severn's narrative is perfectly acceptable. But be warned that the discussion of women's suffrage never mentions the prohibition issue (even though Severn has written on both topics before in Free But Not Equal, 1967, and The End of the Roaring Twenties, 1969), the discussion of Negro voting rights allots one paragraph to the registration activities of civil fights groups, and, lastly, neither problems of redistricting or electoral college reform are mentioned.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1972
Publisher: Washburn