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The Oxford Companion to American Law

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The history of in the United States has not been characterized by smooth and inexorable progress toward universal suffrage and widespread political participation. It has instead been much messier, littered with periods of both expansion and retraction of the franchise with respect to many groups of potential voters. Throughout this checkered history, those who controlled existing institutions had the ability to manipulate democratic processes and outcomes, and they used that ability, first and foremost, to preserve their own control. This, in turn, meant that less powerful segments of society, including racial and ethnic minorities, faced long, difficult struggles for meaningful political participation.


This chapter is from The Oxford companion to American law edited by Kermit L. Hall.