Allan J. Lichtman is professor of history at American University. His areas of scholarship include the American presidency, conservative politics, quantitative methodology, and voting rights and redistricting. He has published more than 100 scholarly and popular articles as well as six books, including, most recently, White Protestant Nation: The Rise of the American Conservative Movement (2008) and The Keys to the White House (revised edition, 2000), which explains and predicts presidential election results. He provides commentary for major U.S. and foreign broadcast companies, and has served as an expert witness in more than 70 federal voting rights and redistricting cases. He has received the Scholar/Teacher Award at American University, the highest faculty award.
Americans have fought and died for the right to vote. Yet the world’s oldest continuously operating democracy guarantees the franchise to no one, not even citizens. This lack of universal voting rights originated in a crucial mistake by America’s founders: omitting a right to vote from the Constitution and leaving the franchise to the discretion of individual states. This lecture will examine the battles for the vote from the founding to the present. It will show that today our voting rights are in greater jeopardy than at any time in recent years. Politicians that benefit from voter suppression and the manipulation of legislative districts, rely on bogus claims of voter fraud to deprive millions of American the franchise through voter identification laws, political gerrymandering, registration requirements, the throttling of the Census and Post Service, felon disenfranchisement, and voter purges. Only a revived grassroots political movement can reverse the tide of voter suppression and guarantee to all Americans the right to vote, which grounds all other rights in our democracy.