History of American Voting Rights

One of the wonderful things about living in the United States of America is that we do not go through half as many struggles to vote as newly democratic nations. Although now it may seem that voting is almost taken for granted, the history of American voting rights is not so pretty. This article will look at the development of the American voting rights from the birth of the nation until now.

In the beginning of American history, only white males over the age of 21 could participate in the vote. Additionally, the president and vice president were elected separately, and senators were not directly elected at all. Keep in mind the electoral college’s vote in regards to the presidency, as well. However, there were a number of changes that took place throughout our history to put the elections more in the hands of the people-all people.

After the Civil War ended, the newly reunited nation passed several amendments allowing the newly released slaves more rights than ever before, supposedly equal with those of white citizens. First, the 13th Amendment abolished slavery, as well as forced servitude, and continues to prohibit these practices. Second, the 14th Amendment made slaves and their descendents complete citizens of the United States, and gave them the same rights as every other citizen in America. Lastly, the 15th Amendment prohibited voter discrimination based on race, color, and heritage. Together, these were known as the Reconstruction Amendments.

You may have noticed that although people could not legally prevent others from voting based on color, there was nothing included about gender. Even after African-American males got the right to vote, women of both colors were unable to do so. Finally, in 1920, the 19th Amendment gave women suffrage. This was after direct election of senators was given to the people (17th Amendment, 1913).

The Vietnam War was a time of great civil unrest. First, the 26th Amendment lowered the voting age to 18 because 18-year-olds were being sent off to war without even getting the chance to elect their leader. This happened in 1971. Earlier, but also during the long span of time of the Vietnam War, the little ways people disabled African-Americans from voting came to national attention.

People disenfranchised black voters by instituting poll taxes, literacy tests, and grandfather clauses. Because these were unfair and borderline illegal, people rebelled against these practices, which lead to President Lyndon Johnson signing the National Voting Rights Act of 1965. This act made the discrimination against black voters completely illegal.

Now, although all 18 year old citizens, male and female, black and white and every color in between, are legally allowed to vote, some people still work to disenfranchise would-be voters. If you think that your voting rights have been infringed upon, you may consider taking legal action. For more information on your voting rights, check out the Phoenix law firm of Haralson, Miller, Pitt, Feldman & McAnally, P.L.C.