History of Voting Rights

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U.S. Constitution Adopted

September 17, 1787

The Preamble of the US Constitution
"We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."

When the U.S. Constitution was drafted to limit the power of the government as Thomas Jefferson said :"The two enemies of the people are criminals and government, so let us tie the second down with the chains of the Constitution so the second will not become the legalized version of the first."

This is important because the US Constitution is still important today, still being used, without it, most of us would not have a lot of power or rights. This connects to the larger struggle for voting rights because, there are amendments that allowed people of color to vote, allowing women to vote, being to vote for your Senator, no more poll taxes, and etc., it was created to better everyone and have a more equal community.

Seneca Falls Convention: Women's Suffrage

July 19, 1848 - July 20, 1848

Organized by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott, in July 1848, 200+ women suffragists, met in Seneca Falls, New York, to discuss women's rights. They passed a resolution that declared "it is the duty of the women of this country to secure to themselves their sacred right to the elective franchise." For proclaiming a women's right to vote, the Seneca Falls Convention was the center of attention and were ridiculed, which caused many women to withdraw their support. This was the beginning of the woman suffrage movement in America.

Unlike African-American men and other colored men, women (both white and black) were in the struggle much longer, it took them 50 years longer to be able to vote, the protests, marches, petitions, etc., paid off and finally got them the ability to vote and have a say in how the US is governed and have no power at all.

15th Amendment

February 3, 1870

The 15th amendment stated that "The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude." This is important because it only gave colored men rights to finally vote, not to women. Though colored men were allowed to vote, in many states, they were disenfranchised for being colored, so those states held literacy tests for them to determine whether they should vote or not. This connects to the larger struggle voting rights because if colored men had not won the right to vote, they would have no say in how the US was governed and no power at all.


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17th Amendment

1913

The 17th Amendment states 'The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each state, elected by the people thereof, for six years; and each Senator shall have one vote. The electors in each state shall have the qualifications requisite for electors of the most numerous branch of the state legislatures." This important because it gave the people of their respective states the right to elect who the representative of their states would be in the Senate, before then the people who elected the Senators were the state legislators and it didn't allow people to choose who can best represent their state. This connects to the larger struggle of voting rights because electing the Senator who can repeal and pass bills to change the policies and procedures in the US be for their respected constituents.

19th Amendment: Women's Suffrage

August 18, 1920

The role of women in American society was changing tremendously: women were working more, receiving better education, yet during the Reconstruction era, when the 15th Amendment was adopted, granting African American men the right to vote, Congress declined to expand enfranchisement into the matter of gender. The 19th amendment stated "The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex."

Unlike African-American men and other colored men, women (both white and black) were in the struggle much longer, it took them 50 years longer to be able to vote, the protests, marches, petitions, etc., paid off and finally got them the ability to vote and if women had not won the right to vote, the female population would have no say in how the US was governed, and have no power at all.

Civil Rights Movement

1955 - 1968

The Civil Rights Movement was a mass popular movement promoting African Americans as equals to access the basic privileges and rights of U.S. citizenship at stated in the U.S. Constitution. This is important because if no one ever promoted African Americans as equals, they wouldn't have tried really hard, gone to the government, and have a big impact. This connects to the larger struggle for voting rights because without the movement, segregation wouldn't have ended, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 wouldn't have passed, allowing there to be no discrimination for those who want to vote.

24th Amendment

January 23, 1964

The 24th Amendment states "The right of citizens of the United States to vote in any primary or other election for President or Vice President, for electors for President or Vice President, or for Senator or Representative in Congress, shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any state by reason of failure to pay any poll tax or other tax." This is important because before poll taxes were removed, only people with money could vote, once removed, everyone could . With the poll taxes enact, many had to pay a fee to vote in a National Election. This connects to the larger struggle of voting rights because it allowed everyone an equal opportunity to vote.

Voting Rights Act

1965

Also connected to the 15th Amendment which states,"The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude." The Voting Rights Act helped end part of the struggle for many people, allowing them to vote, but that did not sit calm with some. In many states, including Alabama, held literacy tests which was a test African Americans had to take to vote. They had to have some kind of knowledge of the United States, the test was made to be confusing so African Americans could not pass. Also, then African Americans would have to sit and take the literacy test while the whites only had to pay $1.50.

Example of questions on test:

26th Amendment: 18 and over

1971

"Old enough to fight, old to vote," during the Vietnam War, many young Americans, under the age of 21 were being drafted to fight on the side of the US, yet they were not able to have the right to vote, when the 26th amendment was ratified, it changed the legal age to vote from 21 to 18. This connects to the larger struggle of voting rights because, they were fighting for the right to vote, if they were allowed to fight in war, why not be able to have the right to vote for the country you are fighting for.