C.  Rights and Responsibilities

There are four amendments to the Constitution about who can vote. Describe one of them.

  Citizens eighteen (18) and older (can vote).

  You don’t have to pay (a poll tax) to vote.

  Any citizen can vote. (Women and men can vote.)

  A male citizen of any race (can vote).

Voting is one of the most important civic responsibilities of citizens in the United States. In a democratic society, the people choose the leaders who will represent them. There are four amendments to the Constitution about voting. The 15th Amendment permits American men of all races to vote. It was written after the Civil War and the end of slavery.  The 19th Amendment gave women the right to vote. It resulted from the women’s suffrage movement (the women’s rights movement). After the 15th  Amendment was passed, some leaders of the southern states were upset that African Americans could vote. These leaders designed fees called poll taxes to stop them from voting. The 24th Amendment made these poll taxes illegal. The 26th Amendment lowered the voting age from 21 to 18.

What is one responsibility that is only for United States citizens?*

  serve on a jury

  vote in a federal election

Two responsibilities of U.S. citizens are to serve on a jury and vote in federal elections. The Constitution gives citizens the right to a trial by a jury. The jury is made up of U.S. citizens. Participation of citizens on a jury helps ensure a fair trial. Another important responsibility of citizens is voting. The law does not require citizens to vote, but voting is a very important part of any democracy. By voting, citizens are participating in the democratic process. Citizens vote for leaders to represent them and their ideas, and the leaders support the citizens’ interests.

Name one right only for United States citizens.

  vote in a federal election

  run for federal office

U.S. citizens have the right to vote in federal elections. Permanent residents can vote in local or state elections that do not require voters to be U.S. citizens. Only U.S. citizens can vote in federal elections. U.S. citizens can also run for federal office. Qualifications to run for the Senate or House of Representatives include being a U.S. citizen for a certain number of years. A candidate for Senate must be a U.S. citizen for at least 9 years. A candidate for the House must be a U.S. citizen for at least 7 years. To run for president of the United States, a candidate must be a native-born (not naturalized) citizen. In addition to the benefits of citizenship, U.S. citizens have certain responsibilities—to respect the law, stay informed on issues, participate in the democratic process, and pay their taxes.

What are two rights of everyone living in the United States?

  freedom of expression

  freedom of speech

  freedom of assembly

  freedom to petition the government

  freedom of worship

  the right to bear arms

Thomas Jefferson said, “[The] best principles [of our republic] secure to all its citizens a perfect equality of rights.” Millions of immigrants have come to America to have these rights. The Constitution and the Bill of Rights give many of these rights to all people living in the United States. These rights include the freedom of expression, of religion, of speech, and the right to bear arms. All people living in the United States also have many of the same duties as citizens, such as paying taxes and obeying the laws.

What do we show loyalty to when we say the Pledge of Allegiance?

  the United States

  the flag

The flag is an important symbol of the United States. The Pledge of Allegiance to the flag states, “I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” When we say the Pledge of Allegiance, we usually stand facing the flag with the right hand over the heart. Francis Bellamy wrote the pledge. It was first published in The Youth’s Companion magazine in 1892 for children to say on the anniversary of Columbus’s discovery of America. Congress officially recognized the pledge on June 22, 1942. Two changes have been made since it was written in 1892. “I pledge allegiance to my flag” was changed to “I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America.” Congress added the phrase “under God” on June 14, 1954.

What is one promise you make when you become a United States citizen?

  give up loyalty to other countries

  defend the Constitution and laws of the United States

  obey the laws of the United States

  serve in the U.S. military (if needed)

  serve (do important work for) the nation (if needed)

  be loyal to the United States

When the United States became an independent country, the Constitution gave Congress the power to establish a uniform rule of naturalization. Congress made rules about how immigrants could become citizens. Many of these requirements are still valid today, such as the requirements to live in the United States for a specific period of time, to be of good moral character, and to understand and support the principles of the Constitution. After an immigrant fulfills all of the requirements to become a U.S. citizen, the final step is to take an Oath of Allegiance at a naturalization ceremony. The Oath of Allegiance states, “I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.”

How old do citizens have to be to vote for President?*

  eighteen (18) and older

For most of U.S. history, Americans had to be at least 21 years old to vote. At the time of the Vietnam War, during the 1960s and 1970s, many people thought that people who were old enough to fight in a war should also be old enough to vote. In 1971, the 26th Amendment changed the minimum voting age from 21 to 18 for all federal, state, and local elections. The National Voter Registration Act of 1993 made it easier for people to register to vote. Now they can register to vote by mail, at public assistance offices, or when they apply for or renew their driver’s license.

What are two ways that Americans can participate in their democracy?

  vote

  join a political party

  help with a campaign

  join a civic group

  join a community group

  give an elected official your opinion on an issue

  call Senators and Representatives

  publicly support or oppose an issue or policy

  run for office

  write to a newspaper

Citizens play an active part in their communities. When Americans engage in the political process, democracy stays alive and strong. There are many ways for people to be involved. They can volunteer to help new immigrants learn English and civics, join the Parent Teacher Association (PTA) of their child’s school, run for a position on the local school board, or volunteer to help at a polling station. People can also vote, help with a political campaign, join a civic or community organization, or call their senator or representative about an issue that is important to them.

When is the last day you can send in federal income tax forms?*

  April 15

The last day to send in your federal income tax to the Internal Revenue Service is April 15 of each year. The Constitution gave the federal government the power to collect taxes. The federal government needs money to pay the nation’s debts and to defend and provide for the needs of the country. When the country was young, it was difficult to raise money from the 13 original states. The government began collecting income tax for the first time through the Revenue Act of 1861. This was only temporary. In 1894, a flat-rate federal income tax was enacted, but the Supreme Court said this was unconstitutional. Finally, in 1913, the 16th Amendment was ratified. It gave Congress the power to collect income taxes. Today, “taxable income” is money that is earned from wages, self-employment, tips, and the sale of property. The government uses these taxes to keep our country safe and secure. It also tries to cure and prevent diseases through research. In addition, the government uses these taxes to educate children and adults, and build and repair our roads and highways. Taxes are used to do these things and many more.

When must all men register for the Selective Service?

  at age eighteen (18)

  between eighteen (18) and twenty-six (26)

President Lincoln tried to draft men to fight during the Civil War, but many people became angry and rioted. In 1917, Congress passed the Selective Service Act. This act gave President Woodrow Wilson the power to temporarily increase the U.S. military during World War I. In 1940, President Franklin Roosevelt signed the Selective Training and Service Act, which created the first draft during peacetime. This was the beginning of the Selective Service System in the United States today. The draft was needed again for the Korean and Vietnam Wars. Today, there is no draft, but all men between 18 and 26 years old must register with the Selective Service System. When a man registers, he tells the government that he is available to serve in the U.S. Armed Forces. He can register at a United States post office or on the Internet. To register for Selective Service on the Internet, visit the Selective Service website at www.sss.gov.