Voting rights in the United States have been a major topic of discussion since the country’s founding. From the 1776 Declaration of Independence to the 19th Amendment that granted women’s suffrage, voting has gone through numerous changes over time.
This article will provide an overview of the history and progression of voting rights in America, from its earliest days to modern times.
The Founding Fathers:
The Founding Fathers understood that democracy was essential for a successful society, so they wrote protections for citizens’ right to vote into the Constitution. The document states that no state can deny citizens their right to vote based on race, sex or age (though it did not include income level at this time). This meant that all citizens, regardless of their background, could cast a ballot in elections.
The Civil War and Reconstruction:
After the Civil War, Congress passed three amendments to the Constitution that further expanded voting rights for African Americans. The 15th Amendment stated that no citizen could be denied the right to vote on account of race, while the 14th Amendment lowered residency requirements and allowed freed slaves to become citizens. The 13th Amendment abolished slavery throughout the country.
The 19th Century Expansion of Rights:
In 1870, the 15th Amendment was ratified and gave African-Americans full voting rights in all states. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 further strengthened these protections by banning any form of discrimination or literacy tests used to deter minorities from voting. This Act enabled millions of African-Americans to register and vote for the first time.
The 20th Century Advancements:
In 1920 the 19th Amendment granted women the right to vote, ensuring that all citizens over the age of 18 had access to the ballot box regardless of gender. The 24th Amendment abolished poll taxes, which were used by some states as a way to deny certain groups from voting. The 26th Amendment lowered the voting age from 21 to 18 in 1971, allowing young people to participate in elections.
The right to vote is the cornerstone of democracy and a fundamental human right. The ability to participate in a process that has tangible effects on everyday life is not only empowering but also essential for any meaningful progress toward equality and justice. In the United States, voting rights have gone through numerous highs and lows over the course of its history. From the original founding documents that left out many groups from exercising their political power to the fight for universal suffrage during civil rights movements throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, it’s clear that voting rights have been constantly contested in America.
The Founding Fathers of the United States created an imperfect document when they wrote the Constitution which excluded many people from having access to their political power. Specifically, women, African Americans, and Native Americans were all denied the right to vote when the US first became a nation.
The 19th Century:
In the early 1800s, individual states gradually began expanding voting rights with some allowing property-owning white men to cast ballots in national and state elections. By 1830, only 4 out of 24 states had allowed all adult white men to vote regardless of their income or wealth. This soon changed as more states adopted universal male suffrage laws throughout the 19th century. Although this was an important step forward towards full participation in democracy for many people in America, it excluded non-white citizens from having any say in how their government operated.
The 20th Century:
The 20th century saw immense changes in voting rights as civil rights activists pushed for greater inclusion in politics. In 1920, the 19th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified which gave women the right to vote and removed restrictions based on race or gender. This was a major advancement for democracy but other groups were still excluded from participating in elections such as African Americans, Native Americans, and Asian Americans who faced systematic disenfranchisement due to their race.
In 1965, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was passed which outlawed discriminatory practices that prevented people from casting ballots. With this law, civil rights activists finally achieved their goal of full voting equality regardless of one’s race or gender.
Voting is essential for any meaningful progress toward equality and justice in the United States. The fight for voting rights throughout the 19th and 20th centuries was a long, arduous battle that has had immense consequences on our nation today. The right to vote is something that should never be took for granted as it’s essential for our democracy to function.
It’s important to remember that although great strides have been toward increasing access to political power, there are still many groups who don’t have full say in how their government operates. We must continue to strive for a more inclusive society where everyone can participate equally in the democratic process.