Free course. One paragraph (usually) per day.
Our trust in the system requires that political participation and decision making are inclusive and free from repression and coercion. All political competition should be channeled through elections and legislative votes. With such limits effectively in place, we need not be fearful that political debate will lead to violence or even war. We can trust the system with our lives and property. We can also be more trusting that political competition without coercion will be fairer than otherwise.
It is therefore a principal of liberal republicanism that any citizen may vote and all votes are to be made by free will, without repression or coercion. You may vote if you wish and how you wish.
Our Constitution did not originally contain such a guarantee. Instead, the issue of who could vote was left to the state governments to decide (Article 4, Section 4). It took a civil war to motivate the 15th Amendment that says “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” Women gained the right to vote in 1920, via the 19th Amendment. It took many decades of additional struggle and sacrifice before the 15th Amendment was put into wider practice for people of color, notably through the 1965 Voting Rights Act. (A key portion of the Act was subsequently weakened by the Supreme Court in 2013 in Shelby vs. Holder.) Additional laws rule out many forms of vote-rigging, vote-buying, and political corruption. (Yes, more work needs to be done.) In the end, all political competition is meant to be channeled through elections and legislative votes.
If you are an eager beaver and want to read ahead, you can do that here.
Image: Ballot stuffing and voter intimidation, Tammany Hall.