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JULY 1994

Article 25 - Access to the Political System

The U.S. political system is open to all adult 
citizens without distinction as to gender, race, 
color, ethnicity, wealth or property.    Effective 
access to the political system is important not only 
as a right in and of itself, but as an additional 
guarantee of the respect for other human rights.    

I.   Voting

The right to vote is the principal mechanism for 
participating in the U.S. political system.  The 
requirements for suffrage are determined primarily 
by state law, subject to limitations of the 
Constitution and other federal laws.  Over the 
course of the nation's history, various amendments 
to the Constitution have marked the process toward 
universal suffrage.  In particular, the Supreme 
Court's interpretations of the Equal Protection 
Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment have expanded 
voting rights in a number of areas.  The summary 
below sets out those respects in which suffrage has 
been expanded and those in which some limitations 
still remain.

Gender.  The Nineteenth Amendment to the 
Constitution, ratified in 1920, guarantees women the 
right to vote in the United States.  In many states, 
women had already been enfranchised prior to that 

Race and Color.  The Fifteenth Amendment to the 
Constitution, ratified in 1870 following the Civil 
War, prohibits the denial of voting rights "on 
account of race, color, or previous condition of 
servitude."  At the time it was first passed, 
however, the Fifteenth Amendment and legislation 
adopted to enforce it did not sufficiently ensure 
the full and permanent enfranchisement of African 
Americans in all states in practice.  Through both 
physical and economic coercion supported by state 
legal systems, African Americans were still almost 
totally excluded from the political process of 
several southern states through the end of the 19th 

During this century, African Americans have won a 
number of Supreme Court victories in the area of 
voting rights.  See, e.g., Guinn v. United States, 
238 U.S. 347 (1915) (restricting franchise to those 
whose grandfathers were eligible to vote 
unconstitutional); Lane v. Wilson, 307 U.S. 268 
(1939) ("The [15th] Amendment nullifies 
sophisticated as well as simple-minded modes of 
discrimination"); Terry v. Adams, 345 U.S. 461 
(1953) (excluding African Americans from primaries 
unconstitutional); Gomillion v. Lightfoot, 364 U.S. 
339 (1960) (redrawing boundaries of town to exclude 
African Americans unconstitutional).  Further 
progress was made through Civil Rights Acts enacted 
by Congress in 1957, 1960, and 1964, and especially 
through the Voting Rights Act of 1965.  See 42 
U.S.C.    1971 and 1973 et seq.  As a result, 
African Americans now enjoy the uninhibited right to 
vote in every part of the United States.

The Voting Rights Act authorizes the U.S. Attorney 
General and private parties to bring lawsuits to 
enforce the Fifteenth Amendment and bans the use of 
literacy tests and other devices which had been used 
to disqualify African American voters.  The courts 
subsequently determined that illiterate persons are 
entitled to receive assistance in marking their 
ballots, United States v. State of Mississippi, 256 
F. Supp. 344 (S.D. Miss. 1966), and in 1982 Congress 
amended the Voting Rights Act to provide that 
illiterate persons (and those who require assistance 
because of blindness or disability) must be 
permitted to select their own helpers.  42 U.S.C.   
1973aa-6.  As a safeguard, voters are not permitted 
to receive assistance from their employers or agents 
of their employers or from officers or agents of 
their unions.  The assistance requirement applies to 
the voter registration process as well as to voting 
itself.  Rules with respect to who could give 
assistance (e.g. poll workers, relatives, registered 
voters) had varied greatly from state to state.  

In addition, the Voting Rights Act contains three 
specialized mechanisms that apply to certain problem 
areas through the year 2007:

--  Federal registrars are authorized to conduct 
voter registration in areas in which local 
registrars refuse to register minority applicants, 
or make it difficult for them to register.

--  Federal approval is required for changes in 
voting laws and practices, to prevent the 
implementation of new laws and practices aimed at 
continuing the disenfranchisement of minorities.

--  Federal observers are authorized to monitor 
elections to assure that minority voters are 
permitted to vote and their votes are actually 

See 42 U.S.C.   1973(a)(8).  As a result of the 
enforcement of the Voting Rights Act and of the 
efforts of civil rights workers, African Americans 
in affected states now register to vote and vote at 
roughly the same rates as other citizens.  Prior to 
the Voting Rights Act, for example, about 19 percent 
of the African Americans of voting age in Alabama 
were registered to vote, 27 percent in Georgia, 32 
percent in Louisiana, and 7 percent in Mississippi.  
See United States Commission on Civil Rights, 
Political Participation, Appendix VII (Washington, 
D.C. 1968).  At the time of the 1992 presidential 
election, 72 percent of voting age African Americans 
in Alabama, 54 percent in Georgia, 82 percent in 
Louisiana, and 79 percent in Mississippi reported 
they were registered to vote, compared to 68 percent 
for all persons of voting age.  See United States 
Bureau of the Census, Current Population Reports, 
P20-466, Voting and Registration in the Election of 
November 1992, Table 4 (Washington, D.C. 1993).

The U.S. Department of Justice and various private 
organizations remain vigilant to ensure that the 
voting rights of African Americans and of other 
minorities defined by race or color are not denied 
or abridged.  The U.S. Attorney General continues to 
bring lawsuits under the Voting Rights Act; to deny 
approval for discriminatory voting law changes; and 
to send federal observers to monitor elections.  The 
need for Voting Rights Act enforcement generally has 
shifted from practices that deny the right to vote 
to those that abridge the right to vote, for 
example, by making it more difficult for African 
Americans or other minorities than for other persons 
to elect candidates of their choice to public 

Ethnicity and Language.  The Voting Rights Act was 
amended in 1975 to ensure the protection of the 
voting rights of ethnic groups who speak languages 
other than English.  These minorities include 
Mexican Americans living in Texas and other states 
of the Southwest and persons of Asian descent living 
throughout the country.  The amendment requires that 
minority language information, materials, and 
assistance be provided to enable minority language 
citizens to participate in the electoral process on 
an equal basis with other citizens.  It applies in 
jurisdictions with significant concentrations of 
minority language citizens (under the Act, 
Hispanics, Asian Americans, Alaska Natives and 
Native Americans), and expires in 2007, along with 
the other special provisions of the Voting Rights 
Act discussed above.  The minority language 
provisions of the Voting Rights Act have since been 
extended by the Voting Rights Amendments of 1982 and 
the Voting Rights Language Assistance Act of 1992.  
See 42 U.S.C.    1973b(f) and 1973aa-1a.

The Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments were not, at 
the time of their ratifications, understood to 
enfranchise Native Americans.  In 1924, however, 
Native Americans were declared by Congress to be 
citizens of the United States, and since then, they 
have enjoyed the same voting rights as other 
citizens.  See Harrison v. Laveen, 67 Ariz. 337, 196 
P.2d 456 (1948).  See, also Goodluck v. Apache 
County, 417 F. Supp. 13 (D. Ariz. 1975), aff'd, 429 
U.S. 876 (1976) (Indians must be counted in the 
population base for the creation of districting 
plans).  Eskimos and Aleuts in Alaska and Native 
Hawaiians have been enfranchised since those two 
states achieved statehood in 1959. 

Property and Wealth.  Early restrictions limiting 
the franchise to property owners were gradually 
eliminated during the eighteenth and nineteenth 
centuries.  Under the Equal Protection Clause of the 
Fourteenth Amendment, restricting the franchise to 
property owners is only permissible in elections for 
limited purpose quasi-governmental agencies such as 
water reclamation agencies.  See Ball v. James, 451 
U.S. 355 (1981); Salyer Land Co. v. Tulare Lake 
Basin Water Storage District, 410 U.S. 719 (1973).  
The Supreme Court has severely limited such 
restrictions, holding, for example, that they are 
not permitted for school board elections.  See 
Kramer v. Union Free School District, 395 U.S. 621 

Under the Twenty-fourth Amendment to the 
Constitution and the Supreme Court's interpretation 
of the Equal Protection Clause, the states may not 
require the payment of a "poll tax" (a fee per 
person or "head" tax) as a prerequisite to voting.  
See Harper v. State Board of Elections, 383 U.S. 663 

Age.   The Twenty-Sixth Amendment, ratified in 1971, 
prohibits the states from excluding from the 
franchise anyone 18 years of age or older by reason 
of age.  Previously the standard age for voting was 
21.  Where primary elections are held, those who are 
less than 18 but will become 18 by the date of the 
general election are frequently permitted to vote.  
States have the discretion to enfranchise those 
below the age of 18.

Disability.  Voting by the blind and by the disabled 
has been further facilitated by the Voting 
Accessibility for the Elderly and Handicapped Act  
of 1984, 42 U.S.C.    1973ee et seq., and by the 
Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, 42 U.S.C. 
   12131 et seq., which prohibits discrimination 
against disabled persons in all programs of state 
and local governments.

Residency and Citizenship.  States and localities 
are generally permitted to exclude nonresidents from 
voting in local elections; however, they do not have 
unlimited discretion to define the requirements of 
residency.  For example, the U.S. Supreme Court has 
held that states may not, on residency grounds, 
exclude military personnel who have moved in from 
other states.  Carrington v. Rash, 380 U.S. 89 
(1965).  States are further prohibited from denying 
the right to vote to residents of a federal enclave.  
Evans v. Cornman, 388 U.S. 419 (1970).    

Those who, because of poverty or other problems, 
have no fixed address have generally been unable to 
register to vote because they cannot establish that 
they are residents of the jurisdiction in which they 
seek to vote.  However, such restrictions may 
violate the Equal Protection Clause of the 
Fourteenth Amendment.  See Pitts v. Black, 608 F. 
Supp. 696 (S.D.N.Y. 1984) (refusal to allow 
registration by those without traditional residences 
violates Equal Protection clause).  Homeless persons 
in some jurisdictions are permitted to register 
using shelters as their addresses.

In general, states are permitted to impose residency 
requirements only for very limited periods justified 
on administrative grounds.  See Marston v. Lewis, 
410 U.S. 679 (1973) (50-day requirement upheld); but 
see Dunn v. Blumstein, 405 U.S. 330 (1973) 
(requirement that one be resident of the state for 
one year and of the county for three months was 
invalidated).  Under the Voting Rights Act, as 
amended in 1970, durational residency requirements 
are not permitted in voting for President of the 
United States.  42 U.S.C.   1973aa-1.  Voters who 
move shortly before an election must be permitted to 
vote either in their new state or their old.  

Citizenship.  Under the laws of the various states, 
the right to vote is almost universally limited to 
citizens of the United States.

Party Membership.  Except where elections are held 
on a nonpartisan basis, those elected to office 
usually are the nominees of political parties.  
Political parties use primary elections and 
conventions to select their nominees.  In many 
states only those affiliated with a party in advance 
of the primary election day are permitted to vote in 
that party's primary.  In other states, voters can 
decide at the polls in which party's primary to 
participate.  Under current U.S. law, political 
parties may not arbitrarily limit access to 
membership.  Thus, a state law that prohibited 
voters from changing party affiliation during the 23 
months prior to a primary election was found 
unreasonably to restrict the right to vote and thus 
to violate the Equal Protection clause.  Kusper v. 
Pontikes, 414 U.S. 51 (1973).  Political parties are 
further discussed under Article 22.

Absence from Jurisdiction.  All states have 
procedures that permit those who will be out of town 
on election day, or who are prevented because of 
injury or illness from going to the polls, to vote 
by absentee ballot, either by mail or in person in 
advance of the election.  The requirements and 
procedures for absentee voting vary considerably 
from state-to-state.  Although the Equal Protection 
Clause has not been interpreted to require the 
states to permit absentee voting, it does prohibit 
wholly arbitrary distinctions between different 
classes of absentees.  See O'Brien v. Skinner, 414 
U.S. 524 (1974) (imprisoned persons who have not 
been convicted of a disqualifying crime cannot be 
denied absentee ballots).

The Uniformed and Absentee Citizens Absentee Voting 
Act of 1986 requires the states to permit U.S. 
citizens living abroad to register for and vote in 
elections for federal office.  42 U.S.C.    1973ff 
et seq.  This act only enfranchises those who have 
given up their residence in a state and does not 
apply to citizens who have never established 
residency in a particular state.  The act guarantees 
the timely delivery of absentee ballots to all 
eligible overseas citizens.

Criminal Conviction and Mental Incompetence.  Most 
states deny voting rights to persons who have been 
convicted of certain serious crimes.  Where the 
disqualification on the basis of criminal conviction 
is motivated by a racially discriminatory purpose, 
however, the restriction is not permitted.  Hunter 
v. Underwood, 471 U.S. 222 (1985).  The standards 
and procedures for criminal disenfranchisement vary 
from state to state.  In most states, this 
disability is terminated by the end of a term of 
incarceration or by the granting of pardon or 
restoration of rights.  However, the Equal 
Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment does 
not require the states to reenfranchise convicted 
felons who have completed their sentences of 
incarceration.  Richardson v. Ramirez, 418 U.S. 24 

In most states, persons who have been declared by a 
court to be mentally incapacitated are not permitted 
to vote.  There are procedural safeguards which 
prevent mistaken or abusive disenfranchisement on 
this basis.

District of Columbia Residence.  Residents of the 
District of Columbia, the seat of the federal 
government established under Article I, Section 8 of 
the Constitution, enjoy the same Constitutional 
rights, described in this report, as any other 
citizen of the United States.  Under the Twenty-
third Amendment to the Constitution, ratified in 
1961, residents of the District have the right to 
vote in elections for President and Vice-President.  
In addition, under a policy of "home rule," 
established by Congress in 1973, District residents 
elect their own mayor, city council, and school 
board.  Congress also established representation for 
the District through an elected delegate to the 
House of Representatives.  It is in this way that 
District residents' rights differ from the residents 
of the states.  

District residents' representation in Congress is 
limited to this delegate.  While under House rules 
the delegate (as well as each of the representatives 
of the insular areas) may vote at all stages of the 
legislative process except for final passage, this 
arrangement remains controversial.  While some 
members of the House have criticized giving the 
District delegate and the other representatives 
these extensive voting privileges, some advocates 
for District of Columbia statehood reject even this 
arrangement as insufficient.

Without question, the Framers of the Constitution 
envisioned the District as a separate enclave, apart 
from the influences of any state government and 
responsible to the federal government alone. 

     A dependence of the members of the general 
government on the State comprehending the seat of 
the Government for protection in the exercise of 
their duty, might bring on the national councils an  
imputation of awe or influence, equally dishonorable 
to the Government and dissatisfactory to the other 
members of the democracy. 

The Federalist, No. 43, 289 (J. Madison) (J. Cooke, 
ed. 1961).  This status, independent from the 
states, was reinforced by the choice of a 
substantially undeveloped section of land, donated 
by Maryland and Virginia, on which to build the 
capital city.

Despite any early expectations that this status 
would provide greater stability than one where a 
single state controlled the District, governance of 
the District has not remained stable throughout its 
history, but rather varied in the extent to which 
Congress, the President, and the residents have 
chosen who would govern the city.  This question 
remains a topic of active debate within the city, 
within the rest of the country, and within the 

Insular Areas.  Residents of Guam, the U.S. Virgin 
Islands, American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the 
Northern Mariana Islands, the Trust Territory of the 
Pacific Islands, and Puerto Rico do not vote in 
elections for President and Vice President.  The 
Twelfth Amendment and Twenty-third Amendments to the 
Constitution extend the right to vote in 
presidential elections to citizen of "States" and to 
citizens of the District of Columbia.  These 
provisions have been interpreted as not to extend to 
the Insular Areas.  See, Attorney General of Guam v. 
United States, 738 F.2d 1017 (9th Cir. 1984), cert. 
denied 469 U.S. 1209 (1985) (residents of Guam not 
permitted to vote in presidential elections).  
Residents of these areas do, however, elect their 
respective local governments.  In addition, 
residents of American Samoa, the District of 
Columbia, Guam, and the Virgin Islands each elect a 
Delegate to Congress.  Puerto Rico elects a Resident 
Commissioner.  These officials may participate at 
every level of the legislative process in the House 
of Representatives except for votes on final passage 
of a bill.  Part One and the discussion under 
Article 1 contain further information on the Insular 

Procedural Impediments to Voter Registration.  In 
1993, in response to evidence that practical 
difficulties in registering to vote resulted in 
depressed rates of electoral participation, Congress 
enacted the National Voter Registration Act.  Pub. 
L. No. 103-31, 107 Stat. 77.  Effective generally on 
January 1, 1995, the Act requires the states to 
permit persons to register to vote when they apply 
for motor vehicle drivers' licenses or have 
interactions with various other governmental 
agencies, or to register by mail.  The Act also 
limits the circum- stances under which a voter's 
name can be removed from the roll of registered 
voters.  Although the Voter Registration Act applies 
only to registration for voting for federal offices, 
the local governmental authorities that are 
responsible for conducting elections almost 
invariably maintain a single list of voters eligible 
to vote in any election that occurs within a 
geographical area, and thus the act is expected to 
facilitate voter registration for all elections.

Equality of the Vote.  The Supreme Court has 
interpreted the Equal Protection Clause of the 
Fourteenth Amendment to require that the votes of 
residents of different geographic jurisdictions 
carry equal weight.  The one person-one vote rule, 
which had its origin in Supreme Court cases from the 
early 1960's, requires districts used for the 
election of members of the United States House of 
Representatives, state legislatures, county and city 
governing bodies and the like to be equal (with some 
minimal variance permitted) in population.  See, 
e.g., Baker v. Carr, 369 U.S. 186 (1962);  Reynolds 
v. Sims, 377 U.S. 533 (1964).  Of course, the one 
person-one vote rule does not apply to the U.S. 
Senate, which is composed of two Senators from each 
state, irrespective of population.

II.  Access to Public Office

In the United States a large number and wide variety 
of public offices are filled through popular 
elections, from positions on the governing boards of 
small villages to President of the United States.  
In general, anyone eligible to vote is eligible to 
run for office.  For certain public offices, 
however, there are additional limitations.

Constitutional Requirements.  As discussed in Part 
I, under the Constitution only a native-born citizen 
is eligible to be President.  Further, the President 
must be at least 35 years of age and must have been 
a resident of the United States for at least 14 
years.  No person may be elected to more than two 
four-year terms as President, or be elected more 
than once if he or she has served more than two 
years of a term to which someone else was elected.  
U.S. Senators must be at least 30 years of age, must 
have been citizens of the United States for at least 
9 years, and must be inhabitants of the state from 
which they are elected.  Members of the U.S. House 
of Representatives must be at least 25 years of age, 
must have been citizens for at least 7 years, and 
must be inhabitants of the state from which they are 

These are the only limitations on access to public 
office found in the Constitution.  Other limitations 
have their source in state law, subject to 
restrictions in the Constitution, such as the Equal 
Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, and 
other federal law.

State and Local Candidacy Requirements.  Candidates 
for state and local offices may be required to 
reside in the jurisdiction in which they seek to 
serve and in the district from which they seek to be 
elected, and reasonable durational residency 
requirements are permitted.  See, e.g., Chimento v. 
Stark, 353 F. Supp. 1211 (D.N.H. 1973), aff'd mem. 
414 U.S. 802 (1973).  Age requirements vary from 
state to state; however, requirements that a person 
be over the age of 30 to hold a particular office 
are unusual.  To hold some offices, many states 
require that certain educational or experience 
standards be satisfied.

Restrictions on access to public office may apply to 
persons already holding elected office or who are 
government employees.  The federal Hatch Act, for 
example, prohibits federal employees from being 
candidates for public office in partisan elections. 
5 U.S.C.   7321.  In some states, limitations have 
been imposed on the number of consecutive terms of 
office one can serve.  Office holders customarily 
take an oath of office; however, burdensome loyalty 
oaths may be struck down as an infringement on First 
Amendment rights of free speech.  See Communist 
Party v. Whitcomb, 414 U.S. 441 (1974).  Where 
candidates are required to pay filing fees to run 
for office, an alternative means of qualifying must 
be made available for those unable to pay the fee.  
See Lubin v. Panish, 415 U.S. 709 (1974).  At the 
federal level, the Federal Election Campaign Act of 
1971 provides money for presidential candidates who 
have demonstrated sufficient popular support.  2 
U.S.C.    431 et seq.   Additional federal campaign 
finance reform legislation is under consideration.

Finally, in many states and localities, prior 
criminal conviction will disqualify a person from 
holding public office.    

Access to the Ballot.  In general, there are three 
ways in which a person can qualify to have his or 
her name on the ballot.  Candidates can run as the 
nominees of major parties, as the nominees of minor 
parties, or as independents.  Rules and procedures 
vary from state to state, but a major party is 
generally one that has achieved a certain level of 
support at a recent election and thus qualifies to 
have its nominees automatically placed on the 
ballot.  A minor party, on the other hand, will 
generally have to satisfy a petition requirement, 
demonstrating some significant level of support, 
before its nominees will be placed on the ballot.  
Independent candidates likewise will generally have 
to demonstrate that they have significant support.  
Under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth 
Amendment to the Constitution and under the 
guarantees of free speech and association of the 
First Amendment, restrictions designed to limit the 
number of parties and candidates on the ballot must 
be reasonable.  See Williams v. Rhodes, 393 U.S. 23 
(1968) (petition requirement of signatures equaling 
15 percent of votes cast in last election struck 
down); Moore v. Ogilvie, 394 U.S. 814 (1969) 
(requirement that signatures come from 50 different 
counties struck down); Storer v. Brown, 415 U.S. 724 
(1974) (restriction on party members running as 
independents upheld); Illinois State Board of 
Elections v. Socialist Workers Party, 440 U.S. 173 
(1979) (signature requirement higher for local than 
for state office struck down); Anderson v. 
Celebrezze, 460 U.S. 780 (1983) (independent 
candidate filing deadline in advance of major party 
deadline and far in advance of general election 
struck down); Munro v. Socialist Workers Party, 479 
U.S. 189 (1986) (one percent signature requirement 
upheld).  In many jurisdictions, for many offices, a 
person has the alternative of running as a write-in 

Removal from Office.  Article 2, Section 4 of the 
Constitution, provides that "The President, Vice 
President and all civil Officers of the United 
States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment 
for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other 
high Crimes and Misdemeanors."  Under Article 1, the 
Senate has the sole power to try impeachments, and 
the House of Representatives has the sole power to 
impeach.  In addition, each House of the Congress 
has the power to pass judgment on the qualifications 
of its members and expel members.  Similar 
procedures are generally available at the state and 
local level, and there are legal safeguards to 
protect office holders from abuse of these 
processes.  See Powell v. McCormack, 395 U.S. 486 
(1969) (Congress cannot exclude a member who has the 
qualifications prescribed in the Constitution); Bond 
v. Floyd, 385 U.S. 116 (1966) (exclusion for the 
expression of political views violates the free 
speech guarantee of the First Amendment).  Also 
commonly available at the state and local level is 
the recall process, by which voters can petition for 
an election to determine whether an elected official 
should remain in office.

III. Access to Public Service

The U.S. Government employs approximately 2.97 
million civilian workers, located in the 50 states 
and the District of Columbia, of whom some 300,000 
are hired annually.  With few exceptions, federal 
employees are selected pursuant to statutes 
establishing a merit-based civil service system 
designed to make employment opportunities available 
to the most qualified applicants through 
recruitment, hiring, retention and evaluation 
procedures that are free from considerations of 
politics, race, sex, religion, national origin, 
disability and age.

The statutory mandate for the federal civil service 
is as follows:

     Recruitment should be from qualified 
individuals from appropriate sources in an endeavor 
to achieve a work force from all segments of 
society, and selection and advancement should be 
determined solely on the basis of relative ability, 
knowledge, and skills, after fair and open 
competition which assures that all receive equal 

5 U.S.C.   2301 (b)(1).

The federal civil service system has its origin in 
the Civil Service Act of 1883.  Until this Act, it 
was the practice of the federal government to reward 
political loyalists with jobs.  It was not 
surprising, therefore, that the primary purpose of 
this first Civil Service Act was to remove political 
influence from federal personnel management 
decisions.  The concept of merit selection, that was 
codified in this Act, remains in effect to this day.

Central to the United States' merit-based system is 
the process of open competition, and today more than 
half of all federal jobs are filled through such 
competition.  The federal competitive service 
requires applicants to compete for positions based 
on a written examination and/or an evaluation of 
their education and work experience.  Once hired, 
advancement is also competitive and based on 
performance and merit.  Moreover, as a result of the 
leadership of the federal government and the success 
of the federal merit system, the great majority of 
state and local governments, who employ in excess of 
15.68 million civil servants, have adopted similar 
merit-based employment procedures.

The 1978 Civil Service Reform Act created a federal 
equal opportunity recruitment program to meet the 
statute's goal of recruitment from all segments of 
the work force.  One of the purposes of the Act is 
to promote "a competent, honest, and productive 
federal work force reflective of the nation's 
diversity."  Pursuant to this mandate, special 
efforts are taken to recruit minorities and women 
who may be underrepresented in various job 
categories.  Efforts are also made to ensure that 
the selection procedures themselves are not 
culturally biased and do not artificially eliminate 
from consideration otherwise qualified members of 
under-represented groups.

In addition, the federal civil service and many 
state and local civil service programs have taken 
important steps to protect their employees from 
political influence.  In accordance with the 
principles of a merit based civil service, the Hatch 
Act, passed in 1939, prohibits federal employees 
from actively participating in partisan politics.  
Congress determined that partisan political activity 
must be limited in order for public institutions to 
perform fairly and effectively.  However, the law 
does not prohibit federal employees from 
registering, voting, making financial contributions 
to political candidates, and expressing their 
personal opinions on political candidates and 

National policy in this area has also been codified 
in various federal, state and local civil rights 
laws.  These laws ensure that employment decisions 
at all levels of government are free from bias based 
upon race, sex, religion, national origin, 
disability and age.  The laws also provide aggrieved 
individuals access to impartial and independent 
tribunals to adjudicate alleged violations of their 

The policies and protections of the federal, state 
and local civil service systems offer all Americans 
the promise of being treated equally in civil 
service employment.  Women and minorities are still 
over-represented at the lower levels of pay and 
authority, but their status in public sector 
employment exceeds their status in private sector 
employment.  Women constitute 53 percent of the 
average total government employees, 50 percent of 
state employees, and roughly 59 percent of federal 
government workers.

IV.  Foreign Nationals

In general, foreign nationals are not permitted to 
vote or to hold elected offices in the United 
States.  With certain exceptions for federal 
officials, the U.S. Constitution does not prohibit 
political participation by foreign nationals, but 
the states almost invariably require voters to be 
U.S. citizens (with a few exceptions for voting in 
local elections).  Nevertheless, there are many ways 
people participate in politics other than voting and 
serving as elected officials.  These avenues are 
fully open to noncitizens, and participation by 
noncitizens is constitutionally protected.

The general bar to foreign nationals voting in U.S. 
elections is not a federal proscription but rather a 
restriction imposed by state law.  This bar has been 
supported by some who argue that voting is the 
quintessential right of citizenship, and that aliens 
may be unfamiliar with institutions and values, or 
that strong ties to their native country may impair 
their loyalty to the United States and render them 
incapable of voting responsibly.

The right of foreign nationals to participate in 
public service is less limited than their right to 
vote in national or state elections.  The Supreme 
Court has held that aliens as a group constitute a 
"discrete and insular minority" deserving heightened 
judicial protection in the face of discrimination.  
Graham v. Richardson, 403 U.S. 365 (1971).  
Nevertheless, states have the power to require 
citizenship for  political functions  that go to the 
heart of representative government, such as elective 
or important nonelective legislative and judicial 
positions, and positions involving the formulation 
of public policy.  See Sugarman v. Dougall, 413 U.S. 
634 (1973).  The general rationale for the 
"political function" exception is that the 
composition of state government is a matter firmly 
within the state's constitutional prerogatives.  As 
democratic societies are ruled by their people, a 
state may deny aliens the right to vote, or run for 
elective office, for these lie at the heart of our 
political institutions.

In recent years, the Supreme Court has expanded the 
scope of the "political function" exception.  While 
the exception was originally interpreted to allow a 
citizenship requirement only for positions which 
comprised the core of the representative government 
system, states have now been permitted to apply the 
exception to more general public positions.  For 
example, states may require police officers or 
public school teachers to be citizens, or at least 
noncitizens who intend to become citizens.

In expanding the definition of "political function", 
the Court reasoned that, as states have the 
authority to limit the political community, a state 
may exclude aliens from positions relating to "the 
right of the people to be governed by their citizen 
peers," particularly where the position involves 
discretionary decision-making or execution of 
policy.  Police officers have substantial 
discretionary powers in executing state policy, and 
affect the public to an enormous degree.  The Court 
noted that a state may assume that citizens are 
"more familiar with and sympathetic to American 
traditions," which is important if citizens are to 
submit to such police powers as arrest, search, and 
seizure.  Foley v. Connelie, 435 U.S. 291 (1978).

Likewise, in upholding a citizenship requirement for 
public school teachers, the Court emphasized the 
importance of education in teaching social and civic 
virtues and in preparing students to be good 
citizens.  The Court held that furthering 
educational goals is a legitimate state objective, 
and that a citizenship requirement for teachers is 
rationally related to that goal.  Ambach v. Norwick, 
441 U.S. 68 (1979).

Employment of aliens in the federal government is 
also restricted.  Noncitizens cannot be hired for 
the federal competitive service.  They can sometimes 
be hired for the  excepted  service; the 
appropriations language for each federal department 
or agency spells out the countries from which 
noncitizens can be hired.

V.   Women in Government

Women's participation in elective office has 
increased slowly but consistently over the last two 
decades.  Women officeholders set many records on 
election day, 1992.  However, women still do not 
hold more than about one-fifth of the available 
elective positions at any level of office, including 
the U.S. Congress, statewide elective executive 
offices, state legislatures, county governing 
boards, mayoralties, and municipal and township 
governing boards.

U.S. Congress.  In 1992, women were elected to fill 
47 of the 435 seats in the U.S. House of 
Representatives (10.8 percent) in the 103rd 
Congress.  In addition, a woman was elected as the 
nonvoting delegate from the District of Columbia.  
This represents a significant increase over the 
previous Congress, which included only 29 female 
representatives.  It is also worthy of note that 
these women include the first Mexican-American woman 
and the first Puerto Rican woman to serve in the 
House of Representatives.

Six women were elected in 1992 to serve in the U.S. 
Senate in the 103rd Congress, and a seventh woman 
was added to the rolls in a 1993 special election in 
Texas, thereby more than tripling the previous 
number of women among the nation's 100 Senators.  
Among these women senators is the first African-
American woman to win a major party Senate 
nomination and to serve in the Senate.

These 54 women Senators and Representatives account 
for 10 percent of the total seats in the 103rd 
United States Congress.  Fourteen, or 26 percent of 
them, are women of color.  Ten are African American, 
one is Asian/Pacific American, and three are Latino.

In the 103rd Congress, two of the top congressional 
leadership  positions are held by women.  No women 
chair any standing congressional committees.  No 
woman has yet been Speaker of the House or majority 
or minority leader of the Senate.

State Elective Executive Offices.  Women made 
substantial gains at the state level in the 1992 
elections.  The number of women holding statewide 
elective executive posts increased four percentage 
points, from 18.2 percent (59 women) to 22.2 percent 
(72 women).

As of 1993, 72 women hold statewide elective 
executive offices across the country.  This figure 
does not include officials in appointive state 
cabinet- level positions; officials elected to 
executive posts by the legislature; members of the 
judicial branch; or elected members of university 
Boards of Trustees or Boards of Education.  Of these 
72 women, 4, or 5.6 percent, are women of color - - 
one African American, two Asian/Pacific American and 
one Latino.

Currently, three of the 50 state governors are 
women.  Eleven women serve as lieutenant governors, 
eight women are attorneys general, and women hold 
statewide elective secretary of state positions in 
eleven states.  Women hold statewide elective state 
treasurer positions in seventeen states.

State Legislative Offices.  The 1992 election 
increased the proportion of women in the state 
legislatures as well as at the national level.  In 
1993 women constituted 20.4 percent of the 7,424 
state legislators throughout the United States.  
This is a two percentage point increase in women 
serving in state legislatures (from 18.4 percent 
[1,375 women] to 20.4 percent [1,517 women]).  Women 
hold 338, or 17.0 percent, of the 1,984 state senate 
seats and 1,179, or 21.7 percent, of the 5,444 state 
house seats.  The number of women serving in state 
legislatures has increased fivefold since 1969 when 
301, or 4.0 percent, of all state legislators were 

Of the 1,517 women state legislators in office in 
1993, 202, or 13.3 percent, are women of color.  
Forty-four are senators and 158 are representatives.  
African-American women hold 151 seats; Asian/Pacific 
American women hold 18 seats; Latinos hold 27 seats; 
and Native American women hold 6 seats.  

Municipal Officials.  In March 1993, 19 of the 100 
largest cities in the United States had women 
mayors.  176 (18 percent) of the 974 mayors of U.S. 
cities with populations over 30,000 were women.  
(These figures include Washington, D.C., but do not 
include cities from the following states for which 
data were incomplete:  Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, 
Missouri, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin).  In April 
1993, of the 23,729 mayors and municipal council 
members (and their equivalents) serving nationwide 
in cities with populations over 10,000, 19.6 percent 
were women.

Women Appointed to Government Positions.  With the 
increased awareness of women as active voters and 
elected officials has come an increase in the number 
of women appointed to cabinet-level positions in 
federal, state, and local government, women judges, 
and women as members of special advisory commissions 
on a wide range of specialized topics.  
Nevertheless, the systematic inclusion of women at 
all levels of the planning process in policy making 
is far from complete.

Judiciary.  As of July 1, 1994, there were 746 
members of the federal judiciary of whom 117 were 
women.  Two of the nine U.S. Supreme Court Justices 
are women.  Among members of the lower federal 
courts, 13 were African American women and 6 were 
Hispanic women.  At the state level, in 1991, 10 
percent of judges on courts of last resort were 
women, as were 10 percent of intermediate appellate 
court judges.  According to figures from 1985, women 
constituted 10 percent of all state trial court 

National Executive Offices.  Women serve in a number 
of Cabinet-level positions in the Administration.  
The first female Attorney General of the United 
States, Janet Reno, was appointed in 1993.  Donna 
Shalala is the Secretary of Health and Human 
Services.  Hazel O'Leary, an African American, 
serves as the Secretary of the Energy Department.  

Women in Public Service.  Women represent 48 percent 
of the 1.5 million full-time white-collar workers in 
the executive branch of the federal government, 
however, they are disproportionately represented at 
the lower grades, especially in clerical and 
secretarial jobs.  The average woman worker is paid 
$23,000, while the average man receives $31,000.  
Limited progress has been made during the past 
decade on access of women and minorities to policy-
making positions.  These groups currently comprise 
approximately 17 percent of federal government 
executives; by comparison, in the private sector 
they comprise less than 10 percent.  Nonetheless, 
problems remain.  According to the recent U.S. Merit 
Systems Protection Board study, A Question of 
Equity:  Women and the Glass Ceiling in the Federal 
Government, women in professional occupations are 
promoted at a lower rate than men in two critical 
grades, GS-9 and GS-11 (jobs that pay from $26,000 
to $42,000).  These grades and the categories of 
professional and administrative occupations are the 
gateway through which one must pass in moving from 
the entry level to the senior level.

The necessary legal framework exists for a concerted 
effort to eliminate employment discrimination and to 
integrate top policy positions in government.  
Current laws and regulations creating equal 
employment obligations in government and government 
contractors include the Civil Rights Restoration 
Act; the Civil Rights Act of 1991; Executive Order 
11246, as amended; and Title IX of the Education 
Amendments of 1972.

A variety of policies, identified over the past 
thirty years of experience with affirmative action 
and equal opportunity, have been implemented by 
various employers to make the workplace gender- and 
ethnically-inclusive, such as integrating 
responsibility for equal employment into reward 
structures, paid pregnancy leave, use of sick leave 
for care of sick dependents, and the creation of 
firm policies on and sanctions for sexual and racial 

VI.  Minorities in Government

The representation of minorities at all levels of 
public service has increased significantly in the 
United States over the past several decades.  
Nonetheless, as the following information 
demonstrates, minority groups of particular concern 
continue to be under-represented, particularly at 
the highest levels.

U.S. Congress.  Like women, minorities have made 
significant gains in Congressional representation as 
a result of the 1992 elections.  Although African 
Americans have served in Congress since 
Reconstruction, the first African-American woman 
ever to serve in the U.S. Senate was elected in 
1992.  Also in 1992, the first Native American to 
serve in the Senate in 60 years was elected.  
Thirteen African Americans were newly elected to the 
House of Representatives in 1992, as were six new 
Hispanic members.  By the end of the 103rd Congress, 
more African Americans and Hispanics will be serving 
in Congress, 39 and 19 respectively, than ever 
before.  More Asian and Pacific Islanders have also 
become Members of Congress in the last few years.  
Both of the current Senators from Hawaii as well as 
four Representatives and the Delegates from Guam and 
American Samoa are Asian Americans serving in 

Although no minority group members serve in the top 
Congressional leadership as Speaker of the House or 
Senate Majority or Minority Leader, African-
American, Hispanic, and Asian Members serve in 
leadership posts in the House as Chief Deputy Whips 
and Deputy Whips in addition to being chairs of key 
committees including the House Public Works and 
Transportation Committee, the House Armed Services 
Committee, the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, and 
the Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee.  

Minority group representation in Congress has been 
supported by the Voting Rights Act and the 
significant number of majority-African American (32) 
and majority-Hispanic (20) congressional districts 
the Act has helped to produce.

State Legislative and Elective Executive Offices.  
While the number of minority group members serving 
in state legislative and executive office has 
increased, representation does not match their 
presence in the population.  In 1993, the first 
African-American governor of Virginia since 
Reconstruction finished his term of office.  At this 
time, no minority group member serves as a governor 
of one of the fifty states.  Eight elected state 
administrators were African Americans and seven 
elected state executives were Hispanics in 1993.  
Minorities represented less than 10 percent of state 
legislators in 1993, including 520 legislators who 
were African Americans and 156 legislators who were 

Municipal Officials.  Minority group members make 
significant contributions to local government as 
mayors and other elected officials.  In 1993, more 
than 350 of the nation's mayors were African 
Americans as were over 3500 other municipal elected 
officials.  While information on Hispanic mayors was 
not readily available, almost 1500 municipal elected 
officials in 1993 were of Hispanic origin.

Judiciary.  As of July 1, 1994, there were 746 
members of the federal judiciary of whom 
approximately ten percent were member of a minority 
group.  In addition to one African-American Supreme 
Court Justice, 60 African Americans served on the 
lower federal courts, with 35 Hispanics, 5 Asian 
Americans, and one Native American.  At the state 
court level, 12 African Americans served on a state 
supreme court in addition to more than 580 in other 
judicial offices.  More than 630 Hispanics served in 
judicial offices in 1993.

National Executive Offices.  A number of minority 
group members served as Cabinet secretaries and at 
other senior levels of the Administration.  Cabinet 
officials include Commerce Secretary Ronald Brown, 
Energy Secretary Hazel O'Leary, Housing and Urban 
Development Secretary Henry Cisneros, Transportation 
Secretary Federico Pena, and Veteran's Affairs 
Secretary Jesse Brown.

Minorities in Public Service.  More than 600,000 of 
the 3 million federal government employees are 
minority group members.  These include more than 
480,000 minorities in white-collar jobs.  Of these 
employees, approximately 290,000 are African 
Americans, 94,000 are Hispanics, 65,000 are Asians, 
or Pacific Islanders, and 34,000 are Native 
American.  The average annual white-collar salary 
for all white-collar workers in the federal 
government in 1993 was approximately $36,000.  
Members of minority groups earn less on average.  
African Americans earned an average of approximately 
$29,000, Hispanics $32,000, Asians and Pacific 
Islanders $37,000, and Native Americans $28,000.  A 
significant legal framework of statutes and 
executive orders serves to protect minority rights 
and encourage minority advancement in the federal 
workforce as discussed in the section on Women in 

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