A Brief History of Voting in America

1787: Three-Fifths Compromise

The three fifths compromise was reached after a dispute on whether or not to allow freed slaves to vote. This compromise allowed former slaves to vote, but determined their worth by only three fifths of a person. This means that for every five votes from African-Ameraicans would only be counted as three. This went on until 1870, when the 15th Amendment was ratified.

1870: 15th Amendment (Discrimination by race)

The 15th Amendment granted African-American men the right to vote by declaring 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."

1920: 19th Amendment (Suffrage)

The 19th Amendment was gained after a long series of protest and 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 sex..”

1964: 24th Amendment (Poll tax)

This Amendment eliminates the poll tax and 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." You can thank this Amendment for not having to pay to cast your votes.

1971: 26th Amendment (Age limits)

The 26th Amendment grants the vote to citizens aged eighteen and older. Specifically, it states "The right of citizens of the United States, who are eighteen years of age or older, to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of age." It assures that people who are old enough to fight for their country are old enough to vote

Today

Restrictions against voting are targeted mostly on minorities and people who already have no voice:

  • Felons (even after serving their sentences)
  • non-citizens
  • US territory residents (Puerto Rico, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, US Virgin Islands, American Samoa)
  • people with no identification (Native Americans, homeless, people in poverty, runaways)
  • Only about 30 percent of polling stations are fully accessible

These people get to be ignored by those in power because the people in power know that they don't need their approval. They get to be overlooked and ignored when it comes to policies. Politicians campaign toward demographics with high voter turnouts. You cannot get the change you want unless you show what you want through the polls; don't wait for the perfect candidate to show up before one side of politics takes over the White House, and don't let others decide your government for you. Two thirds of eligible voters don't take the time to vote; take the initiative and use what little power you have in the country

True democracy is not achieved until everybody has a voice.