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As suggested earlier, money can carry a lot of influence in U.S. democracy. But there are other means to make one’s voice heard. Free speech can be influential, and people can participate in the democratic system through volunteering with political advocacy groups, writing to elected officials, sharing views in a public forum such as a blog or letter to the editor, forming or joining cause-related political organizations and interest groups, participating in public demonstrations, and even running for a local office.

The judicial system

The third branch of the U.S. government is the judicial system, which consists of local, state, and federal courts. The U.S. Supreme Court is the highest court in the United States, and it has the final say on decisions about the constitutionality of laws that citizens challenge. As noted earlier, some rulings have a direct impact on the political system, such as recent decisions about voter identification and campaign financing. Other Supreme Court decisions affect different aspects of society, and they are useful for sociological study because they help us understand cultural changes. One example is a recent and highly controversial case that dealt with the religious opposition of Hobby Lobby Stores Inc. to providing employees with specific kinds of insurance mandated by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Another example is same-sex marriage cases, which were expected to be heard by the Court; however, the Court denied review of these cases in the fall of 2014. For now, the rulings of federal district courts stand, and states can continue to have differing outcomes on same-sex marriage for their citizens.

Summary

The success and validity of U.S. democracy hinges on free, fair elections that are characterized by the support and participation of diverse citizens. In spite of their importance, elections have low participation. In the past, the voice of minority groups was nearly imperceptible in elections, but recent trends have shown increased voter turnout across many minority races and ethnicities. In the past, the creation and sustenance of a fair voting process has necessitated government intervention, particularly on the legislative level. The Reynolds v. Sims case, with its landmark “one person, one vote” ruling, is an excellent example of such action.

Short answer

If the percentage of Asian Americans in Congress is far below the percentage of Asian Americans in the United States, does that mean Asian Americans lack political power? Why or why not?

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Explain how a voter’s social class can affect his or her voting practices.

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Besides voting, how can U.S. citizens influence political processes and outcomes? Which of these strategies have you personally used?

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Further research

The 1965 Voting Rights Act was preceded by Lyndon Johnson’s signing of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Both articles were instrumental in establishing equal rights for African Americans. Check out Cornell University’s website on this topic to learn more about this civil rights legislation: (External Link)

References

Bingham, Amy. 2012. “Voter Fraud: Non-Existent Problem or Election-Threatening Epidemic?” ABC News, September 12. Retrieved October 2, 2014 ( (External Link) )

Cooper, Michael. 2013. “After Ruling, States Rush to Enact Voting Laws” The New York Times , July 5. Retrieved October 1, 2014 ( (External Link)&_r=0 )

Dinan, Stephen. 2013. “Supreme Court Says Voting Rights Act of 1965 is No Longer Relevant” The Washington Times , June 25. Retrieved October 1, 2014 ( (External Link) )

IT Chicago-Kent School of Law. 2014. U.S. Supreme Court Media OYEZ . Retrieved October 7, 2014 ( (External Link) )

Lopez, Mark Hugo and Paul Taylor. 2009. “Dissecting the 2008 Electorate: the Most Diverse in U.S. History.” Pew Research Center. April 30. Retrieved April 24, 2012 ( (External Link) ).

Raymond, Jose. 2010. “Why Poor People Don’t Vote.” Change.org, June 6. Retrieved February 17, 2012.

United States Elections Project. 2010. “2008 General Election Turnout Rates.” October 6. Retrieved February 14, 2012 ( (External Link) ).

United States Elections Project. 2011. “2010 General Election Turnout Rates.” December 12. Retrieved February 14, 2012 ( (External Link) ).

Questions & Answers

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onoja Reply
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Lisa
conflict Theory: the way inequalities contribute to social differences and perpetuate difference in power
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Symbolic: one to one interactions and communications
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Source:  OpenStax, Introduction to sociology 2e. OpenStax CNX. Jan 20, 2016 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11762/1.6
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