Voting is a part of modern-day life that we take for granted. It’s the most socially acceptable way to exercise our political opinion. But, to get to this point, there have been significant hurdles to cross, and the battle isn’t over.
Having said that, we’ve come a long way; and to highlight this, the following article outlines a brief timeline of major milestones that have been overcome in the expansion of suffrage, in order to give you more insight into just how important your vote can be.
1856: all white males can vote
When voting was first implemented, only 6% of the US population were actually eligible to vote. Only white, male citizens who owned taxable property were allowed to vote—leaving most of the population unrepresented in the first election.
In 1800, the election of Jefferson brought new light onto the democratic system, and the expansion of suffrage began. In this new era of Jeffersonian democracy, all white men were allowed to vote. The general consensus was that the requirement to own property was unfair and that a common farmer would be the perfect citizen to vote.
By 1828, almost all states had taken on the new suffrage ruling, with North Carolina becoming the final state to expand in 1856.
The late 1800s: the abolishment of slavery
Unlike most other countries, the US went through a civil war in order to outlaw slavery. Southern states were not as open to abolishment. Between 1865-1870 three amendments were added to the US constitution in favor of freeing the slaves. This not only banned slavery but also prohibited denying anyone the right to vote based on race.
However, it wasn’t all plain sailing from there. Lawmakers used loopholes to prevent non-white males from voting for almost another century. The 15th amendment, however, was still a huge milestone in the expansion of suffrage that we know today.
1920: the Women's Suffragette Movement
While the Women’s Suffragette Movement started long before, it wasn’t until 1920 that they secured women’s right to vote in the US. Today, this is known as part of the 19th amendment, which abolished sexist voting laws.
1924: the Indian Citizenship Act
Although plenty had been done to allow women to vote and ban slavery, there were still unrepresented US citizens. The 14th amendment to stop racism dictating who could vote was actively used to discriminate against Native Americans. The Dawes Act of 1887 worked to break up tribal organizations or push them to undesirable plots of land in exchange for US citizenship.
In 1924 however, Congress created the Indian Citizenship Act which automatically granted citizenship to all Native Americans. The change took until 1948, where New Mexico became the final state to accept Native Americans into the electoral register.
1965: the final barrier to suppressing minorities
Up until this point, there had been an expansion to include all sexes, races, and professions. But despite laws being in place, lawmakers used literacy tests at poll centers to suppress the eligibility of minorities. This led to the Civil Rights Movement in the 50s and 60s.
After the movement turned violent (leading to Bloody Sunday), and mass public outrage ensued, and legislators were left with no choice but to officiate the Voting Rights Act of 1965—to ban literacy tests for suppression.
To this day there are still barriers to shift, but with each movement, we are getting better at creating an all-inclusive and represented voting system.
image courtesy of unsplash.com