One of our nation’s greatest legal minds, Professor John Carroll of Harvard University stated, “I certainly do not see the elevation of voting rights to be necessary either for protecting the people or for promoting self-government. It is wrong to say that the people ought to have the right to vote for the government officials who are accountable to them. I consider that a concept inconsistent with the purposes of our Constitution.” Although this constitutional law scholar believes that the First Amendment gives citizens the right to vote for their elected representatives, he also believes that we should not extend that right to include all government officials. To Professor Carroll, the government officials that he disagreed with were not “legitimate” government officials they were only “self-serving.”
In an article entitled, “Why This Constitutional Law Scholar Doesn’t Think We Should Expand The Sufferage,” another well-known constitutional law scholar makes similar comments regarding the First Amendment. According to Professor Richard W. Pounder, author of “A constitutional history of the U.S., “the right to vote for office belongs to the people, and not to the politicians.” According to Professor Pounder, “A fundamental principle of democracy is that the power of rulers is derived from the majority of the people, rather than from a small group of leaders.” Therefore, it is not “settled” that governments should expand the suffrage in order to rule.
Further, according to Professor Pounder, a limitation on suffrage is important because it inhibits checks and balances. Each of the checks and balances the constitutionally provides for the government to protect against are in place to prevent undue influence by a small number of powerful interests. By limiting the freedom of others to vote for government officials, the constitution helps those who need it most to defend against domination by a small number of powerful interests. Furthermore, further expansion of the franchise will only lead to more votes for the same government officials, thus further entrenching the government’s position.
Those who support the expansion of the franchise argue that it encourages competitiveness among states. Indeed, the argument goes on to say that the expansion of the franchise promotes growth and development, and this is beneficial to the United States. But, those who object to expansion argue that, by giving power to the state to increase its reach into every facet of our life, the Constitution endangers the American representative government, separation of powers, and the checks and balances essential to our system of government. These are just a few of the many arguments made against the reason why this Constitutional Law Scholar does not believe we should expand the franchise.
Still, the argument does have some merit, as there are indeed many who argue that an expansive franchise is bad for America. One such argument is that there are way too many people out there who believe they have a right to be in the United States because they pay taxes and purchase Medicare. The proponents of this argument will argue that the fact that a majority of the citizens do pay their share of taxes to the government supports the argument that they have a right to be part of the country. However, many people do not realize that they do not actually have a right to be part of the country, as they are not paying their fair share of taxes.
Further, many opponents of the argument argue that by allowing more people to have more choices, we are limiting the freedom of individuals. They also argue that competition will lead to lower prices, which is good for the consumers. Still, it is hard to deny that competition will indeed reduce the cost of living, but this is true whether or not the franchise is expanded. In addition, many people feel that the franchise system itself encourages competition, and there are far more businesses opening each year than ever before. Thus, it is hard to say that there is a significant benefit when the government encourages competition, especially when the government invites other states to come into the fold.
A second reason why this constitutional law scholar does not think we should expand suffrage is that he thinks it will change how American citizens feel about the workings of the government. For instance, some people worry that if there is an expansion of the franchise, the government will end up spending too much money on these franchises. This concern is valid, and the expansion will result in increased spending. Still, the expansion will not affect how the government runs its operations, and the concern is one of self-interest rather than of principle.
A third reason why this constitutional scholar does not think we should expand suffrage is that he feels that it will affect the political process. He worries that the creation of the franchise may prevent the political system from functioning properly, and the legitimacy of the government may be called into question. This is a legitimate concern, and indeed the expansion of the franchise may have some negative consequences. Still, those concerns would arise even if the expansion of the franchise were unwarranted. Indeed, the mere existence of the argument itself shows the futility of the concern.