Review: The Contested Right to Vote

Briffault, Richard

Richard Briffault reviews The Right to Vote: The Contested History of Democracy in the United States by Alexander Keyssar. Briffault argues: "Although Keyssar's book is titled The Right to Vote, both his history and current legal doctrine raise questions about whether and to what extent voting is a right at all. Initially, as Keyssar demonstrates, voting was not seen as a right, but as a privilege to be provided to those thought best qualified to participate in governing the community. Even as the franchise was expanded, the vote continued to retain something of its foundation in government-bestowed privilege. Today, the vote comes closer to being a right of all members of the political community. Yet, as I will suggest in Part III, voting's status as a right is still contested. Some groups remain unenfranchised. There is no right to have decisions made by popular vote. Most importantly, even where voting is provided, a wide variety of political considerations and institutions - federalism, legislative districting, ballot access rules, the costs of administration, campaign finance law - operate to constrain voters' choices. Government still gets to shape the role of voting in the political system even if it has less control over who gets to vote. The significance of popular voting in our political process remains a matter of politics as much as it is a matter of rights."


  • thumnail for Review_The_Contested_Right_to_Vote.pdf Review_The_Contested_Right_to_Vote.pdf application/pdf 3.02 MB Download File

Also Published In

Michigan Law Review

More About This Work

Academic Units
Published Here
September 16, 2016