Participating in a Democracy

Let’s see a show of hands!


It’s one of the ways to participate in American democracy, according to the U.S. Citizenship Test. It’s probably the most direct way of participating in American democracy. More than 147 million people voted in the 2020 presidential election, the most votes ever cast in a U.S. election to support presidential candidates. Also, millions of Americans worked behind the scenes to support the candidate of their choice, which the U.S. Citizenship Test lists as one of the ways to participate in American democracy along with voting.

In a classical sense, favoring or supporting a political candidate can be described by the Latin verb “suffrāgārī.” Closely related is the Latin noun, “suffragium,” which means “a vote” or “the right of voting.” The English word “suffrage,” the right of voting, thus comes from ancient roots. So, the “women’s suffrage” movement of the 20th Century led by Susan B. Anthony that resulted in the 19th Amendment, giving women the right, was rooted in ancient vocabulary, though ancient tradition in Rome did not permit women or others to vote. 

The U.S. Constitution as written in 1787 and adopted in 1788 did not permit women or black Americans to vote. The Framers of the Constitution decided electing the President would come by creating the “electoral college,” established in Article II of the Constitution, which deals with the Presidency, the Executive Branch, one of the three branches of government citizens should know, per the U.S. Citizenship test.

However, Article V of the Constitution allowed for the Constitution to be amended, or “added on to.” There are 27 amendments to the Constitution, and four of them deal with voting:

  • The 15th Amendment, which prohibited denying the right to vote based on race or skin color
  • The 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote
  • The 24th Amendment, which outlawed “poll taxes” targeting primarily black Americans
  • The 26th Amendment, which made 18 years of age as the legal voting age

No doubt that many men and women of different races, skin color, and religious beliefs voted in the 2020 presidential election due to the rights given to them in the Constitution.

To learn more about voting and the Constitution, sign up for our “US History for Citizenship” course, a fascinating study of U.S. civics in 12 interactive modules and practice test that helps prepare people for citizenship and educates others curious about U.S history and government.