History of Voting in America

After the Revolutionary War, when the United States gained it's freedom from England, the founding fathers drafted a Constitution for the new country. In this Constitution they gave the right to vote only to white, land-owning men. Since that time different groups of people have worked hard to gain the right to vote for themselves. Those who campaigned to be included and have their voices heard include blacks, women and young people.

During the time of Reconsruction after the Civil War several amendments to the Constitution were passed with the purpose of ending slavery and making blacks full citizens of the United States. Among these amendmendments was the 15th Amendment, which said voters could not be discriminated against based on the color of their skin, thus giving blacks the right to vote. However, women of any race and those under 21 years-old were not yet allowed to vote.

The sufferage movement can be traced back to a meeting of the Women's Rights Convention in 1848, before the 15th Amendment was passed. From that time on, women stuggled to have their voices heard and to be represented on election day. Many at the time held the belief that a woman's place was in the taking care of the home and kids, so they didn't need to worry about politics. Women rallied for sufferage during the drafting of the Reconstuction amendments, but were denied. They pressed forward, however, and kept fighting to gain the right to vote. The Amendment giving women the right to vote was first introduced in 1878 and resubmitted every year for the next 41 years.

In July of 1890 Wyoming, which already gave women the right to vote, was admitted into the Union, making it the first state to allow women to vote. Several other states soon followed. In May of 1919 the Amendment gained the two-thirds majority needed by just one vote. The Nineteenth Amendment was then ratified on August 18th, 1920. After 72 years of protests, debates and hard work women were given the right to vote. (6)

The 26th Amendment, which gave 18-20 year-olds the right to vote, was the fastest ratification in history. Passed in 1971, it was brought about during the Vietnam War era in response to complaints from young people that they were being drafted in war but were unable to vote for the policy makers putting them there. Prior to the amendment the voting age was 21 years-old. 1972 was the first election in which young people could vote and 55% of these newly eligible voters cast ballots. Since then, with only a few exceptions, voter turnout for this age group has been lower than other age groups. (1)