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Voting and Election Laws

Federal election laws can help protect your voting rights and the election process. Learn about limits on campaign contributions, accessibility laws for voters with disabilities or language barriers, and more.

Voting Rights 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 Affecting Voting Rights

  • 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

Learn where to report voter fraud and voting rights violations that you witness or suspect.

What are federal election crimes? 

Federal election crimes fall into three broad categories: 

  • Campaign finance crimes, such as when candidates accept funds that violate the amounts or donors permitted under the law

  • Civil rights violations. These include voter intimidation, coercion, threats, and other tactics to suppress someone's ability to vote.

  • Voter fraud and voter registration fraud, such as when someone casts a vote in the name of a dead person or someone who has moved

Many states have strengthened their voter ID requirements to stop voter fraud.

Is it illegal for someone to ask me who I voted for? Is it illegal for me to tell?

You have the right to cast your vote in private. It’s up to you whether you want to share your choices with others. There’s no law preventing someone from asking you who you voted for. 

How do I report voter fraud or voter suppression? 

Report suspected or observed federal election crimes to the FBI.

Also, report the crime to your state or territorial election office.

You can also report suspected voter fraud to: 

And if you witness or suspect voter intimidation or suppression, you can report it to the Department of Justice.

Is Voting Mandatory in the United States?

In the U.S., no one is required by law to vote in any local, state, or presidential election. According to the U.S. Constitution, voting is a right. Many constitutional amendments have been ratified since the first election. However, none of them made voting mandatory for U.S. citizens.

Voter Accessibility Laws

Voter accessibility laws ensure that people with disabilities or language barriers are able to vote.

If you know you’ll need accommodations on Election Day, contact your state or local election office to find out what to expect at your polling place. 

Laws and Accommodations That Help Voters With Disabilities

Several federal laws protect the voting rights of Americans with disabilities. 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 an accessible voting machine, or

  • Bring someone to help you vote

You can also ask your election office what other options you have.

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

  • Local organizations may provide transportation to the polls.

  • Many states let people with disabilities vote by mail.

Accommodations That Help Voters Who Need Language Assistance

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.

Federal Campaign Finance Laws

Federal law puts limits on campaign contributions to candidates for president and Congress. It requires the candidates to report all the money their campaigns receive and spend.

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

Most individuals can donate up to $2,900 per election, per candidate during the 2021-2022 elections. That means you can donate up to $2,900 each to:

  • One or more candidates in a federal primary election

  • One or more candidates in a federal general election

Learn which organizations and individuals are not allowed to donate to federal candidates. 

Financial Reporting Requirements for Candidates in Federal Elections

The Federal Election Campaign Act requires candidates to report:

  • 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 Law

The Federal Election Commission (FEC) oversees enforcement of the Federal Election Campaign Act. The FEC:

  • Sets campaign contribution limits for individuals and groups

  • Oversees public funding used in presidential elections

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Last Updated: April 8, 2022