Timeline of voting rights in the United States

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This is a timeline of voting rights in the United States, documenting when various groups in the country gained the right to vote or were disenfranchised.



1770s 1780s 1790s 1800s 1830s 1840s 1850s 1860s 1870s 1880s 1890s 1900s 1910s 1920s 1940s 1950s 1960s 1980s
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Thomas Wilson Dorr of Rhode Island Thomas Wilson Dorr Rhode Island.jpg
Thomas Wilson Dorr of Rhode Island








Ezekiel Gillespie, c. 1850 Ezekiel Gillespie, c. 1850.jpg
Ezekiel Gillespie, c. 1850






















Suffragists in parade Suffragists in parade LCCN2014692940.jpg
Suffragists in parade































Marchers with signs at the March on Washington Marchers with signs at the March on Washington 37229u.tiff
Marchers with signs at the March on Washington







Voting in the 1972 Presidential Primary Election in Birmingham, Alabama PRIMARY ELECTION DAY - NARA - 545384.jpg
Voting in the 1972 Presidential Primary Election in Birmingham, Alabama
























Voting on election day in Des Moines, Iowa, 2010 11.2.2010 -election day- 291 365 (5142094274).jpg
Voting on election day in Des Moines, Iowa, 2010











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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Fifteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution</span> 1870 amendment prohibiting denial of voting rights on the basis of race

The Fifteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibits the federal government and each state from denying or abridging a citizen's right to vote "on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude." It was ratified on February 3, 1870, as the third and last of the Reconstruction Amendments.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Twenty-fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution</span> 1964 amendment prohibiting poll taxes

The Twenty-fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution prohibits both Congress and the states from conditioning the right to vote in federal elections on payment of a poll tax or other types of tax. The amendment was proposed by Congress to the states on August 27, 1962, and was ratified by the states on January 23, 1964.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Suffrage</span> Right to vote in public and political elections

Suffrage, political franchise, or simply franchise is the right to vote in public, political elections and referendums. In some languages, and occasionally in English, the right to vote is called active suffrage, as distinct from passive suffrage, which is the right to stand for election. The combination of active and passive suffrage is sometimes called full suffrage.

Disfranchisement, also disenfranchisement or voter disqualification is the restriction of suffrage of a person or group of people, or a practice that has the effect of preventing a person exercising the right to vote. Disfranchisement can also refer to the revocation of power or control of a particular individual, community or being to the natural amenity they have; that is to deprive of a franchise, of a legal right, of some privilege or inherent immunity. Disfranchisement may be accomplished explicitly by law or implicitly through requirements applied in a discriminatory fashion, through intimidation, or by placing unreasonable requirements on voters for registration or voting. High barriers to entry to the political competition can disenfranchise political movements.

Universal suffrage ensures the right to vote for as many people who are bound by a government's laws as possible, as supported by the "one person, one vote" principle. For many, the term universal suffrage assumes the exclusion of youth and non-citizens, while some insist that much more inclusion is needed before suffrage can be called universal. Democratic theorists, especially those hoping to achieve more universal suffrage, support presumptive inclusion, where the legal system would protect the voting rights of all subjects unless the government can clearly prove that disenfranchisement is necessary.

A grandfather clause, also known as grandfather policy, grandfathering, or grandfathered in, is a provision in which an old rule continues to apply to some existing situations while a new rule will apply to all future cases. Those exempt from the new rule are said to have grandfather rights or acquired rights, or to have been grandfathered in. Frequently, the exemption is limited, as it may extend for a set time, or it may be lost under certain circumstances; for example, a grandfathered power plant might be exempt from new, more restrictive pollution laws, but the exception may be revoked and the new rules would apply if the plant were expanded. Often, such a provision is used as a compromise or out of practicality, to allow new rules to be enacted without upsetting a well-established logistical or political situation. This extends the idea of a rule not being retroactively applied.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Voting rights in the United States</span> Suffrage in American elections

Voting rights in the United States, specifically the enfranchisement and disenfranchisement of different groups, has been a moral and political issue throughout United States history.

Minor v. Happersett, 88 U.S. 162 (1875), is a United States Supreme Court case in which the Court held that, while women are no less citizens than men are, citizenship does not confer a right to vote, and therefore state laws barring women from voting are constitutionally valid. The Supreme Court upheld state court decisions in Missouri, which had refused to register a woman as a lawful voter because that state's laws allowed only men to vote.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Constitution of Virginia</span> Principles, institutions, and law of political governance in the U.S. state of Virginia

The Constitution of the Commonwealth of Virginia is the document that defines and limits the powers of the state government and the basic rights of the citizens of the Commonwealth of Virginia. Like all other state constitutions, it is supreme over Virginia's laws and acts of government, though it may be superseded by the United States Constitution and U.S. federal law as per the Supremacy Clause.

Williams v. Mississippi, 170 U.S. 213 (1898), is a United States Supreme Court case that reviewed provisions of the 1890 Mississippi constitution and its statutes that set requirements for voter registration, including poll tax, literacy tests, the grandfather clause, and the requirement that only registered voters could serve on juries. The plaintiff, Henry Williams, claimed that Mississippi’s voting laws were upheld with the intent to disenfranchise African Americans, thus violating the Fourteenth Amendment. The U.S. Supreme Court did not find discrimination in the state's laws because, even though the laws made discrimination possible, the laws themselves did not discriminate against African Americans. The court found that any discrimination toward African Americans was performed by the administrative officers enforcing the law and that there was no judicial remedy for this kind of discrimination.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Reconstruction Amendments</span> Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth amendments to the United States Constitution

The Reconstruction Amendments, or the Civil War Amendments, are the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth amendments to the United States Constitution, adopted between 1865 and 1870. The amendments were a part of the implementation of the Reconstruction of the American South which occurred after the war.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Disfranchisement after the Reconstruction era</span> Post-civil war voter suppression efforts in the United States

Disfranchisement after the Reconstruction era in the United States, especially in the Southern United States, was based on a series of laws, new constitutions, and practices in the South that were deliberately used to prevent black citizens from registering to vote and voting. These measures were enacted by the former Confederate states at the turn of the 20th century. Efforts were also made in Maryland, Kentucky, and Oklahoma. Their actions were designed to thwart the objective of the Fifteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, ratified in 1870, which prohibited states from depriving voters of their voting rights on the basis of race. The laws were frequently written in ways to be ostensibly non-racial on paper, but were implemented in ways that selectively suppressed black voters apart from other voters.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Poll taxes in the United States</span> Banned taxes formerly required before voting; used to disenfranchise racial minorities and the poor

A poll tax is a tax of a fixed sum on every liable individual, without reference to income or resources. Although often associated with states of the former Confederate States of America, poll taxes were also in place in some northern and western states, including California, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Vermont and Wisconsin. Poll taxes had been a major source of government funding among the colonies which formed the United States. Poll taxes made up from one-third to one-half of the tax revenue of colonial Massachusetts. Various privileges of citizenship, including voter registration or issuance of driving licenses and resident hunting and fishing licenses, were conditioned on payment of poll taxes to encourage the collection of this tax revenue. Property taxes assumed a larger share of tax revenues as land values rose when population increases encouraged settlement of the American West. Some western states found no need for poll tax requirements; but poll taxes and payment incentives remained in eastern states. Poll taxes became a tool of disenfranchisement in the South during Jim Crow, following the end of Reconstruction. This persisted until court action, following the ratification of the 24th Amendment in 1964, ended the practice.

This timeline highlights milestones in women's suffrage in the United States, particularly the right of women to vote in elections at federal and state levels.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Voter suppression in the United States</span> Efforts used to prevent eligible voters from voting

Voter suppression in the United States consists of various legal and illegal efforts to prevent eligible citizens from exercising their right to vote. Such voter suppression efforts vary by state, local government, precinct, and election. Voter suppression has historically been used for racial, economic, gender, age and disability discrimination. Before and during the American Civil War, most African-Americans had not been able to vote. After the Civil War, all African-American men were granted voting rights, causing some Southern Democrats and former Confederate states to institute actions such as poll taxes or language tests that were ostensibly not in contradiction to the U.S. Constitution at the time, but were used to limit and suppress voting access, most notably African American communities that made up large proportions of the population in those areas, but in many regions the majority of the electorate as a whole was functionally or officially unable to register to vote or unable to cast a ballot. African Americans' access to registration and voting in the South was often difficult until the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and continues to be a subject of debate.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Felony disenfranchisement in the United States</span> Prohibiting criminals from voting in elections in the United States

Felony disenfranchisement in the United States is the suspension or withdrawal of voting rights due to the conviction of a criminal offense. The actual class of crimes that results in disenfranchisement vary between jurisdictions, but most commonly classed as felonies, or may be based on a certain period of incarceration or other penalty. In some jurisdictions disfranchisement is permanent, while in others suffrage is restored after a person has served a sentence, or completed parole or probation. Felony disenfranchisement is one among the collateral consequences of criminal conviction and the loss of rights due to conviction for criminal offense. In 2016, 6.1 million individuals were disenfranchised on account of a conviction, 2.47% of voting-age citizens. As of October 2020, it was estimated that 5.1 million voting-age US citizens were disenfranchised for the 2020 presidential election on account of a felony conviction, 1 in 44 citizens. As suffrage rights are generally bestowed by state law, state felony disenfranchisement laws also apply to elections to federal offices.

Felony disenfranchisement in Florida is currently a contentious political issue in Florida. Though the general principle of felony disenfranchisement is not in dispute, the disenfranchisement of people who had been convicted of a felony and have served their sentence — that includes prison, bail and parole — but continue being barred from voting if they have outstanding fines, fees or restitution obligations is in contention. Prior to January 8, 2019, when Amendment 4 came into effect, people convicted of a felony effectively lost their right to vote for life, as it could only be restored by the governor as an act of clemency, which rarely occurred. Florida was one of four states with a lifetime ban, the others being Iowa, Kentucky and Virginia.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Black suffrage in the United States</span> Legal right of African Americans to vote in elections

The history of black suffrage in the United States, or the right of African Americans to vote in elections, has had many advances and setbacks. Prior to the Civil War and the Reconstruction Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, some Black people in the United States had the right to vote, but this right was often abridged or taken away. After 1870, Black people were theoretically equal before the law, but in the period between the end of Reconstruction era and the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 this was frequently infringed in practice.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Women's poll tax repeal movement</span> Movement to abolish US poll taxes

The women's poll tax repeal movement was a movement in the United States, predominantly led by women, that attempted to secure the abolition of poll taxes as a prerequisite for voting in the Southern states. The movement began shortly after the ratification in 1920 of the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which granted suffrage to women. Before obtaining the right to vote, women were not obliged to pay the tax, but shortly after the Nineteenth Amendment became law, Southern states began examining how poll tax statutes could be applied to women. For example, North and South Carolina exempted women from payment of the tax, while Georgia did not require women to pay it unless they registered to vote. In other Southern states, the tax was due cumulatively for each year someone had been eligible to vote.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Native Americans in United States elections</span>

Native Americans in the United States have had a unique history in their ability to vote and participate in United States elections and politics. Native Americans have been allowed to vote in United States elections since the passage of the Indian Citizenship Act in 1924, but were historically barred in different states from doing so. After a long history of fighting against voting rights restrictions, Native Americans now play an increasingly integral part in United States elections. They have been included in more recent efforts by political campaigns to increase voter turnout. Such efforts have borne more notable fruit since the 2020 U.S. presidential election, when Native American turnout was attributed to the historic flipping of the state of Arizona, which had not voted for the Democratic Party since the 1996 U.S. presidential election.


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