What Is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights?

The United States plays a leading role in the protection of fundamental human rights, and has since its inception. In the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson wrote of the “self-evident truths” that everyone was created equal and endowed with “unalienable rights,” including to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

The Purpose & Principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

In keeping with this tradition of respect for basic entitlements, the US played a leading role in developing the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). Taken up by the United Nations General Assembly on December 10, 1948, the declaration is considered the world’s most important document regarding the recognition and protection of fundamental rights and liberties.

The UDHR details every person’s fundamental human rights regardless of gender, race, nationality, religion, or other identifier or status. Although it was non-binding, the Declaration subsequently formed the foundation of nine enforceable international human rights treaties.

America’s Role in Creating the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

The United States plays a leading role in global affairs, including the promotion of the ideals set forth by UDHR. In fact, then-president Franklin D. Roosevelt’s wife Eleanor served as the UDHR drafting committee’s chairperson. In that role, she looked to her husband’s “Four Freedoms” — freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom from want, and freedom from fear.

As a permanent member of the UN Security Council, the US strives to enforce and expand the use of the UDHR worldwide by setting an example in all its affairs, at home and abroad.

The US works bilaterally with other nations to promote improvements to basic human rights within their borders. It also works with allies and global entities like UNICEF to stave off future human rights abuses.

The US has also worked to influence the development of other human rights treaties calling for the elimination of racial discrimination, protection of refugee status, and prohibition of torture.

US support for universal human rights remains as strong today as it did over 70 years ago when the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was first adopted.


60 – Why Do Some States Have Runoff Elections and How Do They Work?

America’s systems of government often cause confusion. Whether it’s the electoral college, the relationship between state and federal governing bodies, or checks and balances, there’s always something more to learn.

One thing people have been curious about recently is the runoff election system. Ten states employ a version of it for federal or state elections.

How Do Runoff Elections Work?

In states where this system operates, an electoral candidate must claim a certain percentage of the vote (usually 50%) to win. If no candidate achieves this margin after the initial ballot, electors must go to the polls again to choose from a smaller field of candidates, often just the two who received the most votes.

Of the ten states with this framework, only two use it for general elections; Georgia and Louisiana. In both cases, candidates must get 50% of the vote to be victorious. Where this doesn’t happen, the top two performers go on the ballot again for a runoff.

Without runoff elections, the person with the most votes after the conclusion of counting immediately wins. This system is known as “plurality voting” or a “first past the post” system.

What Is the Logic Behind Holding Runoffs?

The runoff election system serves a similar purpose to the single transferable vote system used in other countries. Under that system, voters rank electoral candidates in the order of their preference. If one candidate exits the race, their votes transfer to the second choice on each ballot, then the third, and so on until all votes are distributed. This system is sometimes called “instant-runoff voting” or “ranked-choice voting.”

Proponents of both runoff elections and the single transferable vote claim they provide a more nuanced way for people to choose leaders. Instead of picking one candidate at the expense of every other, voters get the chance to redirect their ballot if their first choice is eliminated. Third-party candidates have a more credible shot at victory under run-off or single transferable vote systems.

Critics of these systems point to the complexity they add to the voting processes. Many also question whether they actually solve the problems they seek to address.