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Abstract

From an exclusionary beginning, American democracy has, to its great credit, accomplished the progressive expansion of the franchise and the steady elaboration of the meaning of one person/one vote. By way of both constitutional and statutory change, the people have extended the ballot to citizens without taxable property, African-Americans, women, and eighteen-year-olds. Interpreting the commands of the Constitution, the Supreme Court has fortified the central democratic principle of one person/one vote by striking down practices that demean and undermine a citizen's voting power: grandfather clauses, exclusionary white primaries, state poll taxes, restrictions on the suffrage rights of citizens in the armed services, unnecessarily long residency requirements, excessively high candidate filing fees, and malapportioned legislative districts that dilute the potency of the vote. But threats to the integrity of the vote and the electoral process are never fully vanquished; they take different forms in different times. Today, the principal question of democratic legitimacy facing our society is whether the extraordinary power of private wealth to shape the nature and outcome of public elections is consistent with the constitutional command of one person/one vote.

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