Elections and voting rights research paper topics

Elections and voting rights provide many good research paper topics. Just a few are political campaign strategies for modern times, the definition of gerrymandering and its effects on democracy, and a history of voting rights.

The first “gerrymandered” voting district looks like a salamander. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

The first “gerrymandered” voting district looks like a salamander. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Evolution of campaigning

One topic you can write about elections is the quickly changing environment of campaigning and ways to gauge the voting public just over the past few years. In the 2014 book Campaigns and Elections American Style, by James A. Thurber and Candice J. Nelson, “The authors show the evolution and innovation in campaign strategy, the use of survey research, the changes in fundraising strategies, the role of communications and media, the use of digital and social media, the advancement in microtargeting and fieldwork, as well as the stability and changes in election law and turnout in 2012.”

They also show that “academics use large data sets and systematically test hypotheses to make careful statements about voters and elections. They attempt to explain individual and collective political behavior.

Effects of gerrymandering on democracy

Another topic for a research paper is to discuss whether gerrymandering adversely affects the American democratic process. Gerrymandering is the practice of redrawing a state’s congressional voting districts according to the political constituency to assure that a certain number of representatives from one party are elected in a state. In 1812, Massachusetts Governor Elbridge Gerry approved a district with the shape of a salamander, hence a “Gerry-mander.”

According to Christopher Ingraham in the article “America’s most gerrymandered congressional districts,” posted May 15, 2014, in Washington Post, “Gerrymandering is at least partly to blame for the lopsided Republican representation in the House. …the Democrats are under-represented by about 18 seats in the House, relative to their vote share in the 2012 election. The way Republicans pulled that off was to draw some really, really funky-looking Congressional districts.” The purpose of gerrymandering, said Ingraham is “to give your opponents a small number of safe seats, while drawing yourself a larger number of seats that are not quite as safe, but that you can expect to win comfortably.”

History of voting

A historical angle to voting is to research the history of voting, either in America or in other parts of the world. Some web sites offer a timeline of the legal history of voting rights in the United States for blacks, women and naturalized citizens. “Voting is central to the equality of all Americans, and we believe this timeline not only demonstrates that, but also how critical African American history, in addition to the histories of people of color and women, are to American history as a whole,” according to a writer at MassVote.org in “History of Voting Rights.”

Here are some significant events:

1776 – Although the Declaration of Independence was signed, voting is a right only for white, property-owning, Protestant men.

1828 – Maryland is the last state to prohibit Jewish men from voting.

1856 – North Carolina is the last state to prohibit property ownership as a requirement for voting.

1857 – The Dred Scott v. Sanford U.S. Supreme Court Case continues the prohibition of blacks from voting.

1869 – The Fifth Amendment gives all men, regardless of race, the right to vote.

1896 – Louisiana institutes a clause saying that no male whose grandfather was denied the right to vote can vote in the state.

1919 – The Nineteenth Amendment gives women the right to vote.

1922 & 1923 – Two U.S. Supreme Court decisions declare that people of Japanese and of East Indian descent are not “white” enough to qualify for citizenship and therefore the right to vote.

1948 – The last state laws denying Native Americans the right to vote are overturned.

1965 – The Voting Rights Act prohibits any election practice that discriminates against people based on race, and that states with a history of voter discrimination must have any changes in their election laws approved by the federal government.

1990 – The Americans with Disabilities Act ensures that all polling stations are accessible to people with disabilities.

2009 – The Military and Overseas Empowerment Act allows soldiers stationed overseas to vote electronically.

For more information on elections, consult Questia’s Elections library.

What other good research paper topics can come from elections and voting rights?

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