Voting eligibility in the U.S. is determined by Federal and state laws. Voting rights cannot be denied on the basis of:
- Race, color, or prior condition of servitude;
- Failure to pay any tax; and
- Age, with respect to persons who are of 18 years or above.
The Constitutional guarantee of voting rights are restricted to citizens and there is no constitutional right for citizens of other countries to vote. In Cook v. Randolph County, 573 F.3d 1143 (11th Cir. Ga. 2009), the court held that the Constitution of the United States protects the right of all qualified citizens to vote, in state as well as in federal elections. Citizens also have a constitutionally protected right to run for public office.
A person who can demonstrate that s/he lives in the relevant political jurisdiction shall be subject to strict scrutiny and shall be accepted as a citizen only when a compelling state interest is shown. Elections free of irregularities are essential to public confidence in and respect for the government. Such confidence and respect can be undermined by unnecessarily setting aside the will of the electorate.
Pursuant to the Twenty-Sixth Amendment to the Federal Constitution, the right of citizens of the United States, who are 18 years of age or above, to vote shall not be denied by the U.S. or by any state on the basis of age. For the purposes of voting, registrars of voters should treat all the citizens of 18 years or above alike.
Pursuant to the Nineteenth Amendment to the Federal Constitution, the right of citizens of the U.S. to vote may not be denied by the U.S. or by any state on the ground of sex. State constitutional statutes shall prohibit the registration of mentally incompetent persons. In some states the term “person under guardianship” is used as a voter disqualification and in some jurisdictions a judicially appointed guardian is required for disqualification.
Literacy tests and subjective tests of a person’s qualifications are unconstitutional. Similarly, a citizen belonging to a language minority shall not be disqualified by any state or political subdivision. Pursuant to the First Amendment, the Constitution prohibits exclusion of a member of a specific religion from voting.
Voting rights cannot be denied on the basis of payment of taxes, especially, poll taxes. A state constitutional provision, making the right to vote dependent upon ownership of real property is invalid under the Equal Protection Clause of the Federal Constitution.
Due to a failure to comply with any durational residency requirement of a state or political subdivision, a citizen shall not be denied the right to vote, who is otherwise qualified to vote in any presidential election. Durational residency requirements are state laws which require voters to have been bona fide residents for a certain length of time before they are granted the right to vote. States may properly and constitutionally require persons who desire to vote in state and local elections to be bona fide residents.
The good faith intent of a voter to make a place his or her home for all purposes is an essential element in determining the question of residence. A person who physically leaves a jurisdiction to establish a home elsewhere and then votes or qualifies to vote outside that jurisdiction, loses the prior residence in that jurisdiction for voting purposes. However, for voting purposes, there can be only one residence.
Generally, a student status is a neutral factor in determining residence for voting purposes. Nevertheless a residence for voting purposes may be acquired when the student intends to make the place her/his new home. Inmates of a public institution can acquire residence at such institution for the purpose of voting, even if the residence at such place is involuntary. All military personnel enrolled to vote should be bona fide residents of the community and such applicants should fulfill the requirements of a bona fide resident.
While some states deny the right to vote to a convicted felon, some states do not. Some states provide a system for disenfranchisement and re-enfranchisement of convicted felons whereby any person convicted of a felony is automatically disenfranchised.
In Lopez v. Kase, 126 N.M. 733 (N.M. 1999), the court stated that while naturalization of United States citizens lies within the exclusive province of the federal government, the United States Constitution allows states to prohibit persons convicted of crimes from voting or holding state or local offices.