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Voting and Election Laws

Find Constitutional amendments and laws that protect our right to vote. Learn about election crimes and how to report them.

Voting Laws and Constitutional Amendments

U.S. election laws date back to Article 1 of the Constitution. This gave states the responsibility of overseeing federal elections. Many Constitutional amendments and federal laws to protect voting rights have been passed since then. 

Constitutional Amendments

  • The 15th Amendment gave African American men the right to vote in 1870. But many weren't able to exercise this right. Some states used literacy tests and other barriers to make it harder to vote.

  • The 19th Amendment, ratified in 1920, gave American women the right to vote.

  • The 24th Amendment, ratified in 1964, eliminated poll taxes. The tax had been used in some states to keep African Americans from voting in federal elections.

  • The 26th Amendment, ratified in 1971, lowered the voting age for all elections to 18.

Federal Voting Rights Laws

Federal laws passed over the years help protect Americans’ right to vote and make it easier for citizens to exercise that right:

State Voter ID Laws

Two-thirds of states require you to show some form of identification before you’re allowed to vote. Learn more about states' voter ID requirements.

Voter Fraud, Voter Suppression, and Other Election Crimes

Federal election laws help protect the election process. Get information about your voting rights, campaign donations limits, and how to report federal election crimes.

What Are Federal Election Crimes?

Federal election crimes fall into three broad categories:

Many states have strengthened their voter ID requirements in the past few years to try to curb voter fraud.

How Do I Report Voter Fraud or Voter Suppression?

If you suspect that voter fraud has occurred, report it to your state or territorial election office. You can also report it to:

If you witness or suspect voter intimidation or suppression, there are three ways you can report it:

Voter Accessibility Laws

Several federal laws protect the rights of Americans with disabilities to vote. These include the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Help America Vote Act (HAVA).

Voters with disabilities have the right to:

  • Vote in private, without help

  • Have an accessible polling place with voting machines for voters with disabilities

Polling places must have:

  • Wheelchair-accessible voting booths

  • Entrances and doorways at least 32 inches wide

  • Handrails on all stairs

  • Voting equipment for people who are blind or visually impaired

If you have a disability, you may:

  • Seek help from poll workers trained to use the accessible voting machine, or

  • Bring someone to help you vote.

You can also ask local election officials what other options you have.

  • Some states offer “curbside voting," when a poll worker brings everything you need to vote to your car.

  • Some set up polling places at long-term care facilities.

  • Local organizations may provide transportation to the polls.

  • Many states let people with disabilities vote by mail.

Language Accessibility

The Election Assistance Commission (EAC) helps people overcome language barriers to voting.

Federal law also lets you bring someone to help you if you can't read or write.

Get Help and Learn More

Federal Campaign Finance Laws

The Federal Election Campaign Act requires candidates to reveal:

  • Where the money they raise comes from, and the amounts

  • Where the money they spend goes, and the amounts

The law applies to candidates for president as well as for the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives.

The Federal Election Commission’s Role in Campaign Finance Laws

The Federal Election Commission (FEC) oversees the campaign act and other federal campaign finance laws. The FEC:

How Much Can You Contribute to a Candidate for Federal Office?

You, as an individual, can donate up to $2,800 per election, per candidate running for federal office during the 2019-2020 election cycle. That means you can donate up to $2,800 each to:

  • One or more candidates in a federal primary election

  • One or more candidates in a federal general election

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Last Updated: June 25, 2019

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