Voting Laws, restrictions and policy of North Dakota and Pennsylvania

Historically, voting was an essential part of the socio-political life of American people. In fact, voting defined socio-economic and political development of the country. Traditionally, elections play an extremely important role in the life of American people as one of the basic criteria defining the level of the development of American democracy and revealing the extent to which human rights are valued in the US.

It is necessary to underline that, historically, voting was a right of American citizens and not a sort of privilege since it was and still remains the major tools American people use to influence political institutions of the country and the official policy of the government. At the same time, it should be said that voting could be viewed as a privilege only at the early stage of the development of American society and democracy while in the current situation it is one of the basic rights of all people having American citizenship. Nevertheless, it is important to underline the fact that restrictions and limitations in the American voting system at large and in some states, such as North Dakota and Pennsylvania persist till present days and, what is more, new problems arise. In this respect, it is worth mentioning such serious problems as the limitation of access to voting of people, who are in prison, which is the problem typical for many American states, including North Dakota and Pennsylvania, and the problem of the introduction of new systems of voting, including electronic voting which raises certain problems, especially among the elder population of the USA at large and such states as North Dakota and Pennsylvania.

Speaking about the existing voting systems of North Dakota and Pennsylvania, it should be said that both voting systems are grounded on fundamental principles that are implemented at the federal level. Moreover, the development of voting systems in both states occurs in accordance with the mainstream trends in the development of federal voting system. Hence, the introduction of innovations in the federal voting system inevitably leads to the introduction of changes at the state level, though, it worth mentioning the fact that such changes occur at different pace and some states can be more conservative in regard to the implementation of voting changes, while others prove to be more liberal in this regard.

In such context, it is necessary to dwell upon the trends which are similar for the federal voting system and voting systems of North Dakota and Pennsylvania. On analyzing the American voting system, it is necessary to point out that the structure of American legislative and executive powers imply that the country is a democratic state where legislative power is elected by all people and executive power is also defined by the choice of America people after the election of legislative organs and the President of the US. In such a situation, it is really possible to estimate that the voting basically serves as an indicator of the current preferences of American people that defines whether people support or reject the current policy of the US (Nagourney 2006). At the same time, it is necessary to underline that nowadays voting is practically a sacred right of all American citizens since it is their individual and free choice defines the actual policy of the US. In such a way, voting may be viewed as a means of control or regulation of the official policy of the US from the part of American citizens.

Naturally, on analyzing the significance of the voting, it is also necessary to remember that it cannot be insignificant because it is a part of a normal democratic system in which every citizen has a right to elect and be elected. In fact, elections are one of the fundamental symbols of American democracy this is why, if the image of elections is undermined, than in perspective the future of American democracy is in danger (Balz and Goldfarb 2006). This is one of the main reason indicating at the importance of the voting and its results, which, unquestionably, can influence the policy of the United States in all spheres of life of the country. It should be said that voting is an essential element of any democratic system. Otherwise, the US was not a symbol of democracy and the country where citizens can express their opinion concerning the state policy by means of voting.

On the other hand, it is necessary to remember that voting cannot be a privilege and throughout American history it is possible to trace the gradual evolution of voting system which gradually became more and more inclusive to the extent that at the present days, as it has been already said above, all citizens of the US have equal rights of voting. In this respect, it is worthy of mention that voting played an important role as a major part of the civil rights movement. It is possible to remind that the abolishment of slavery and the provision of African American population with basic civil rights including the right of voting resulted in the Civil war which was one of the key episodes in the development of the US and American democracy. The civil right movements grew stronger their demands changed but the demand of the right of voting was the backbone of practically all civil rights movements from those of African American and other ethnic minorities to feminist movements which grew particularly strong in the 20th century. Remarkably, it is only in the 20th century all citizens of the US had got the right of voting without any sort of discrimination. This is why it is possible to estimate that it is only in the 20th century the right of voting really became a right but not a privilege of certain part of American population.

Furthermore, it should be said that such an evolution of the US voting system was not occasional. In stark contrast, it was a historical evolution of a democratic country where the notion of equality was not simply a political slogan but it was also an important moral concept which may be viewed as one of the basic concepts of American philosophy and lifestyle. In actuality, American society is extremely sensitive to any violation of human rights and voting, being one of the major tool of influence of ordinary citizens on politicians, was viewed as an essential element of the realization of the concept of equality and justice. To put it more precisely, traditional American set of values is based on the equality of all people. Naturally, if some part of American population is discriminated or deprived of the right of voting than it naturally provokes the moral dilemma whether the traditional concept of equality is relevant or probably it is totally ignored. Naturally, as the civil rights conscience of American people grew, they realized that voting is the major tool that can protect the deprived parts of American population from any sort of discrimination because by means of voting and participation in elections even the most deprived classes or layers of society could protect their interests and be represented on the highest legislative and executive level of the power as well as they also received judicial support. Consequently, voting seems to be the most plausible way to solve the existing contradictions within American society without violating moral principles of the nation. It means that any other ways of solution of the existing contradictions within the US society will be quite arguable from the moral point of view since traditionally, American society views voting as practical realization of the will of large masses of people which are widely represented in all institutions of power in the US by means of voting.

Practically, it means that if the problem of some ethnic group were solved without its participation in elections and voting than the legitimacy of such solution would be arguable not only from legal point of view but basically from moral one since, according to American standards, it is this particular ethnic group that should participate in the solution of its problems and voting is one of the most effective way to express its opinion and defend its positions.

In this respect, it should be said that the introduction of technological innovations in the system of voting in North Dakota and Pennsylvania occurs at different pace. To put it more precisely, Pennsylvania has already enacted new laws which allowed the introduction of new voting standards and procedures, while North Dakota still sticks to the traditional procedures and standards which remain unchanged in the state. Obviously, the introduction of laws enabling new standards and procedures lay the foundation to the introduction of new system of voting, especially to the introduction of new technologies in the process of voting.  It proves beyond a doubt that North Dakota will be unable to introduce any substantial technological changes in the process of voting, such as the use of electronic voting en mass, if the state legislators fail to introduce changes in the existing voting standards and procedures. At the same time, Pennsylvania, which has already enabled new laws concerning new voting standards and procedures, can conduct more flexible policies in regard to the introduction of innovations, including technological innovations, in the process of voting.

On the other hand, it is important to underline the fact that, unlike Pennsylvania, North Dakota pays more attention to the improvement of voter education. Taking into consideration purely technical problems which Americans have already faced during voting nationwide, voters education is extremely important because it minimizes the risk of technical errors made by voters, which actually make their voices useless because they are not counted. In such a situation, the ignorance of voters education can lead to the emergence of barriers voters will be unable to overcome. In fact, this problem is particularly serious for young voters who have never voted before and they do need such education because they have to vote technically correct and, what is more important, they should be conscious of the importance of their voting for their own life and for the life of the state and even the entire country because every single vote does matter.

Nevertheless, legislators of both states work hard on the improvement of the existing voting systems in North Dakota and Pennsylvania. To put it more precisely, both states have special study commissions, legislative task forces, interim commissions on election reform which work on the improvement of the existing voting system to make it available absolutely to all people, easy to use and voter-friendly, which is an essential condition of the participation of possibly larger amount of voters in elections. The latter will lead to the better representation of voters in different branches of the US power. At the same time, such work is rather an intention to improve the existing system because to change the system, it is necessary to implement legal propositions of the commissions and legislative task forces. Only after that the voting systems of both states can be changed and improved.

Finally, it is necessary to focus on the problem of accessibility of voting or participation of citizens in voting. In this respect, the problem of the access to voting of people, who have a criminal background and who have committed crimes, is very serious. In fact, the problem is that the access to voting is limited for these people in many states. As for Pennsylvania and North Dakota, the policies of these states are similar in this regard. To put it more precisely, both states deny the right to voting for people only when they are in prison. In other words, imprisonment is an unsurpassable barrier which does not allow inmates to participate in the political life of the state and country since they are deprived of the right to vote.

Thus, taking into account all above mentioned, it is possible to conclude that voting systems in North Dakota and Pennsylvania are to a significant extent similar. At the same time, they are based on the existing federal voting system, which is extremely important to American society and American democracy. There are several reasons explaining its importance. In fact, voting is one of the major elements of the existing political system of the US and it is through voting all political institutions and branches of power are actually formed. Moreover, their policy is defined by voting as people can either support or reject the policy of the US on different levels form the national to local ones.

At the same time, voting system also demonstrates the evolution and democratization of the US as the changes of the voting system and right of voting accompanied structural socio-economic and political changes and symbolized the transition to a really democratic state as the right of voting transformed from a kind of privilege to the basic right of all citizens of the US. In actuality, North Dakota and Pennsylvania work on the improvement of their voting systems and some positive changes at the legislative level have been already introduced, but still the problem of the overall participation of all citizens living in these states persists.

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