History of Voting Rights


Struggle to remove religious restrictions

1776 - 1828

The struggle to remove religious restrictions was a big deal in America. During the time period of 1776- 1828, those who were not catholic were not allowed to do much of anything. For instance, in government, people such as Jews, Quakers, Catholics, and other "heretics," were not allowed to vote or hold places of office. They were also treated as outsiders or if they were less of a person because they were not catholic.

1848-1920: Women's Suffrage Movement

1848 - 1920

In 1848 the first Women's Rights Convention was held in Seneca Falls, NY. It demanded that women be granted all rights as full citizens including the right to vote. Women organized different groups along with the Women's Rights Convention in order to fight for the rights and ensure that they were trated equally among men.

14th Amendment extends citizenship to Blacks


Under the 14th Amendment all states were required to recognize Black (and white) males as citizens. This marked a great accomplishment for the African-American people and a great step to creating equality between the people

Women petition that womens' suffrage be included in the draft 15th Amendment


The men of Congress deny their petition.

15th Amendment extends vote to Blacks


Adoption of the 15th Amendment in 1870 extends voting rights to Black males — in theory.

In reality, there is massive resistance to the intent of the 15th Amendment, particularly in the Southern states, but also in the North and Midwest. Violence and economic reprisal are used to intimidate and prevent Black men from voting.

The 15th Amendment does not apply to Native-Americans or Asians because they cannot be citizens. Similarly, it does not apply to Mexican-Americans in New Mexico and Arizona because they live in territories that are not yet states. While legally eligible to vote in Texas and California, Mexican-Americans are still denied the vote through violence and economic retaliation.

End of reconstruction, abandonment of 15th Amendment


Because of widespread cheating on both sides, the vote-count and outcome of the 1876 presidential election between Hayes the Republican and Tilden the Democrat is bitterly disputed — particularly the count in the state of Florida. In the end, all disputed counts are resolved by a special committee appointed by Congress. Republicans outnumber Democrats on the committee by 8 to 7. All disputes are decided in favor of the Republicans by a vote of 8 to 7. Hayes is declared the winner even though most impartial observers believe that Tilden won the popular vote.
It is widely understood that there's a backroom deal with the Democrats who represent the overwhelming majority of white voters in the South. In return for the Democrats accepting Hayes' victory, the Republicans promise that Hayes will remove the troops and officials who have been providing at least some limited protection to Blacks in the South. And that the new Hayes administration will cease enforcing the 15th Amendment and other civil rights laws. This deal becomes known as the "Compromise of 1877." The "compromise" being that the Republicans retain power in Washington while white-racists throughout the country are given free reign to oppress and persecute non-whites.

Hayes takes office, the troops and officials are removed. Civil rights enforcement ends:

Reign of terror. The Ku Klux Klan and other racist terrorist organizations increase their attacks against African-Americans. Blacks are expelled from office. African-American males who try to vote are fired from their jobs, evicted from their homes, beaten, and in many cases brutally lynched. Black property owners are burned out, Black businesses destroyed, and entire African-American towns are wiped out.

Legal disenfranchisement. New state laws are passed to sabotage and render ineffective the 15th Amendment. Among these are the so-called "Literacy Tests" that make it impossible for non-whites to register, and "Grandfather-clauses" that restrict voting rights to those men whose grandfathers had been eligible to vote — a requirement that descendants of slaves cannot possibly meet.

Poll taxes. Many states impose taxes on voting. Anyone — Black or white — who cannot afford to pay the tax cannot vote. Since the taxes are high and have to be paid in cash, voting is thus limited to affluent white males. In effect, this restores a property requirement for voting.

Segregation laws. Laws mandating separation of the races in education, government services, public facilities & accommodations, restrooms, transportation, drinking fountains and so on are passed throughout the South and Midwest. Known as the "Jim Crow" system, their goal is to force African-Americans into feudal semi-slavery. The many Blacks who resist are beaten, jailed, and murdered. Similar systems are imposed in Western states against Latinos, Native-Americans, and Asians.
Within a few years most Blacks are removed from the voter registration rolls and denied the right to vote. All African-Americans who hold elected office are driven out. In Louisiana, for example, by 1900 fewer than 5,000 African-Americans are registered to vote, down from a high of 130,000.

17th Amendment requires direct popular election of Senators


After decades of political action and public pressure often in the form of protests and movements from the Populist movement, a constitutional amendment was passed requiring the election of a Senator rather than Senators being appointed by state legislators.

19th Amendment extends right to vote to women


After decades of struggle, women finally won the right to vote. But discrimination against women candidates and office-holders continued to hold women back from reaching their full potential and achieving all that they want for decades.