Political and Civil Rights in the United States

By Thomas I. Emerson; David Haber | Go to book overview

CHAPTER III
THE RIGHT OF FRANCHISE

The materials in this chapter and the next deal with the rights of individuals to participate directly in the process of government. Chapter III considers the basic right of franchise and closely related matters. Chapter IV takes up other aspects of the right of political organization and political expression.

In the two prior chapters the problems related primarily to the rights of persons in their individual capacities. In this chapter and the following ones the issues are somewhat broader. They involve at many points the rights of individuals to form groups or associations, the control by government over such organizations, and the relationship of the individual to the group. This right of association is basic to a democratic society. It embraces not only the right to form political associations but also the right to organize business, labor, agricultural, cultural, recreational and numerous other groups that represent the manifold activities and interests of a democratic people. In many of these areas an individual can function effectively in a modern industrial community only through the medium of such organizations. Chapters III and IV, however, direct attention primarily to political associations.

The United States Constitution nowhere explicitly recognizes a right to form political organizations. Indeed many of the founding fathers looked upon political parties with some suspicion, referring to them as "factions." Yet it is generally accepted that the rights in the First Amendment to freedom of speech, press and assembly, and to petition the government for redress of grievances, taken in combination, establish a broader guarantee to the right of political association. The legal issues have revolved around the extent to which the state can regulate or restrict such organizations and the position of individuals who wish to participate in their activities.1

____________________
1
See Wyzanski, The Open Window and the Open Door, 35 Calif. L. Rev. 336 ( 1947); Fraenkel, Our Civil Liberties, pp. 114-6( 1944); Bryant v. Zimmerman, 278 U. S. 63, 72-3, 73 L. Ed. 184, 49 S. Ct. 61 ( 1928); De Jonge v. Oregon, 299 U. S. 353, 364-6, 81 L. Ed. 278, 57 S. Ct. 255 ( 1937); Bowe v. Secretary of the Commonwealth, 320 Mass. 230, 251-3, 69 N. E. 2d 115, 130-1( 1946).

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