Timeline of voting rights in the United States
This is a timeline of voting rights in the United States.
- 1789: The Constitution grants the states the power to set voting requirements. Generally, states limited this right to property-owning or tax-paying white males (about 6% of the population).
- 1790: The Naturalization Act of 1790 allows white men born outside of the United States to become citizens with the right to vote.
- 1792-1838: Free black males lose the right to vote in several Northern states including in Pennsylvania and in New Jersey.
- 1792-1856: Abolition of property qualifications for white men, from 1792 (Kentucky) to 1856 (North Carolina) during the periods of Jeffersonian and Jacksonian democracy.
- In the 1820 election, there were 108,359 ballots cast. Most older states with property restrictions dropped them by the mid-1820s, except for Rhode Island, Virginia and North Carolina. No new states had property qualifications although three had adopted tax-paying qualifications – Ohio, Louisiana, and Mississippi, of which only in Louisiana were these significant and long lasting.
- The 1828 presidential election was the first in which non-property-holding white males could vote in the vast majority of states. By the end of the 1820s, attitudes and state laws had shifted in favor of universal white male suffrage.
- Voter turnout soared during the 1830s, reaching about 80% of adult white male population in the 1840 presidential election. 2,412,694 ballots were cast, an increase that far outstripped natural population growth, making poor voters a huge part of the electorate. There were few nations in the world that had a similar level of suffrage for white males at this time. The process was peaceful and widely supported, except in the state of Rhode Island where the Dorr Rebellion of the 1840s demonstrated that the demand for equal suffrage was broad and strong, although the subsequent reform included a significant property requirement for anyone resident but born outside of the United States.
- The last state to abolish property qualification was North Carolina in 1856 resulting in a close approximation to universal white male suffrage. However, tax-paying qualifications remained in five states in 1860 – Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Delaware and North Carolina. They survived in Pennsylvania and Rhode Island until the 20th century. In addition, many poor whites were later disenfranchised.
- 1868: Citizenship is guaranteed to all male persons born or naturalized in the United States by the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, setting the stage for future expansions to voting rights.
- 1870: The Fifteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution prevents states from denying the right to vote on grounds of "race, color, or previous condition of servitude".
- Disfranchisement after Reconstruction era began soon after. Former Confederate states passed Jim Crow laws and amendments to effectively disfranchise black and poor white voters through poll taxes, literacy tests, grandfather clauses and other restrictions, applied in a discriminatory manner. During this period, the Supreme Court generally upheld state efforts to discriminate against racial minorities; only later in the 20th century were these laws ruled unconstitutional. Black males in the Northern states could vote, but the majority of African Americans lived in the South.
- 1887: Citizenship is granted to Native Americans who are willing to disassociate themselves from their tribe by the Dawes Act, making them technically eligible to vote.
- 1913: Direct election of Senators, established by the Seventeenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, gave voters rather than state legislatures the right to elect senators.
- 1920: Women are guaranteed the right to vote by the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. In practice, the same restrictions that hindered the ability of non-white men to vote now also applied to non-white women.
- 1924: All Native Americans are granted citizenship and the right to vote, regardless of tribal affiliation. By this point, approximately two thirds of Native Americans were already citizens.
- 1943: Chinese immigrants given the right to citizenship and the right to vote by the Magnuson Act.
- 1961: Residents of Washington, D.C. are granted the right to vote in U.S. Presidential Elections by the Twenty-third Amendment to the United States Constitution.
- 1964: Poll Tax payment prohibited from being used as a condition for voting in federal elections by the Twenty-fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution.
- 1965: Protection of voter registration and voting for racial minorities, later applied to language minorities, is established by the Voting Rights Act of 1965. This has also been applied to correcting discriminatory election systems and districting.
- 1966: Tax payment and wealth requirements for voting in state elections are prohibited by the Supreme Court in Harper v. Virginia Board of Elections.
- 1971: Adults aged 18 through 21 are granted the right to vote by the Twenty-sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution. This was enacted in response to Vietnam War protests, which argued that soldiers who were old enough to fight for their country should be granted the right to vote.
- 1972: Requirement that a person reside in a jurisdiction for an extended period — 14th Amendment; Dunn v. Blumstein, 405 U.S. 330 (1972).
- 1973: Washington, D.C. local elections, such as Mayor and Councilmen, restored after a 100-year gap in Georgetown, and a 190-year gap in the wider city, ending Congress's policy of local election disfranchisement started in 1801 in this former portion of Maryland — see: D.C. Home rule.
- 1986: United States Military and Uniformed Services, Merchant Marine, other citizens overseas, living on bases in the United States, abroad, or aboard ship are granted the right to vote by the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act.
- 1996-2008: twenty-eight US states changed their laws on felon voting rights, mostly to restore rights or to simplify the process of restoration.
- 2006: The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was extended for the fourth time by George W. Bush, being the second extension of 25 years.
- 2008: state laws on felony disenfranchisement have since continued to shift, both curtailing and restoring voter rights, sometimes over short periods of time within the same US state.
- 2013: Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision that Section 4(b) of the Voting Rights Act is unconstitutional. Section 4(b) states that if states or local governments wants to change their voting laws, they must appeal to the Attorney General.
- "Expansion of Rights and Liberties - The Right of Suffrage". Online Exhibit: The Charters of Freedom. National Archives. Archived from the original on July 6, 2016. Retrieved April 21, 2015.
- Stanley L. Engerman, University of Rochester and NBER; Kenneth L. Sokoloff, University of California, Los Angeles and NBER (February 2005). "The Evolution of Suffrage Institutions in the New World" (PDF): 16, 35.
By 1840, only three states retained a property qualification, North Carolina (for some state-wide offices only), Rhode Island, and Virginia. In 1856 North Carolina was the last state to end the practice. Tax-paying qualifications were also gone in all but a few states by the Civil War, but they survived into the 20th century in Pennsylvania and Rhode Island.
- Engerman, p. 8–9
- Engerman, p. 14. "Property- or tax-based qualifications were most strongly entrenched in the original thirteen states, and dramatic political battles took place at a series of prominent state constitutional conventions held during the late 1810s and 1820s."
- William G. Shade, "The Second Party System". in Paul Kleppner, et al. Evolution of American Electoral Systems (1983) pp 77-111
- Engerman, p. 16 and 35. Table 1
- "AP Tests: AP Test Prep: The Expansion of Suffrage". CliffsNotes. 10 January 2010. Archived from the original on 10 January 2010.
- Madsen, Deborah L., ed. (2015). The Routledge Companion to Native American Literature. Routledge. p. 168. ISBN 1-317-69319-1.
- The American Indian Vote: Celebrating 80 Years of U.S. Citizenship, Democratic Policy Committee, October 7, 2004, archived from the original on 2007-09-27, retrieved 2007-10-15
- "Milestones in Voting History / Voting Rights and Citizenship".
- Congressional Research Service. "The Right to Travel". CRS Annotated Constitution. Legal Information Institute, Cornell University Law School. Retrieved March 28, 2014.
- Pascoe, Elaine (1997). The Right To Vote. United States: The Millbrook press.
- Registration and Voting by Absent Uniformed Services Voters and Overseas Voters in Elections for Federal Office, U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, Voting Section, archived from the original on 2001-04-20, retrieved 2007-01-05
- "Felon Voting Rights". National Conference of State Legislatures. January 4, 2016. Retrieved March 13, 2016.
- "Voting Rights Act Reauthorization 2006 | NAACP LDF". www.naacpldf.org. Retrieved 2016-12-07.
- Schwartz, John. "A Guide to the Supreme Court Decision on the Voting Rights Act". Retrieved 2016-12-07.