Who got the right to vote when?

A history of voting rights in America.


1776

Only people who own land can vote

Declaration of Independence signed. Right to vote during the Colonial and Revolutionary periods is restricted to property owners - most of whom are white male Protestants over the age of 21. But, New Jersey's constitution of the same year enfranchised all adult inhabitants who owned a specified amount of property, including women.


1787

No federal voting standard - states decide who can vote

US Constitution adopted. Because there is no agreement on a national standard for voting rights, states are given the power to regulate their own voting laws. In most cases, voting remains in the hands of white male landowners.


1790

Only white men can become citizens, vote

1790 Naturalization Law passed. It explicitly states that only “free white” immigrants can become naturalised citizens.


1792

No need to own property in New Hampshire

New Hampshire becomes the first state to eliminate its property requirements, thereby extending the right to vote to almost all free white men.


1807

New Jersey women banned from voting

New Jersey renews its laws to deny women the right to vote. For the next 113 years, women will not be able to vote in any US state.


1828

Religion no issue

Maryland becomes the last state to remove religious restrictions when it passes legislation enfranchising Jews. White men can no longer be denied the right to vote on the basis of their religion.


1848

Anti-slavery and women's right activists unite

Women’s rights convention held in Seneca Falls, New York Frederick Douglass, a newspaper editor and former slave, attends the event and gives a speech supporting universal voting rights. His speech helps to convince the convention to adopt a resolution calling for voting rights for women.


1848

Citizenship granted, but voting denied

The Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo ends the Mexican-American War and guarantees US citizenship to Mexicans living in the territories conquered by the US. However, English language requirements and violent intimidation limit access to voting rights.


1856

All states allows all white men to vote

North Carolina is the last state to remove property ownership as a requirement to vote.


1868

Former slaves granted citizenship

14th Amendment to the US Constitution passed. Citizenship is defined and granted to former slaves. Voters, however, are explicitly defined as male. Although the amendment forbids states from denying any rights of citizenship, voting regulation is still left in the hands of the states.


1870

Vote cannot be denied because of race, explicitly - so other discriminatory tactics used

15th Amendment passed. It states that the right to vote cannot be denied by the federal or state governments based on race. However, soon after, some states begin to enact measures such as voting taxes and literacy tests that restrict the actual ability of African Americans to register to vote. Violence and other intimidation tactics are also used.


1872

Women try to vote

Susan B. Anthony is arrested and brought to trial in Rochester, New York, for attempting to vote in the presidential election. At the same time, Sojourner Truth, a former slave and advocate for justice and equality, appears at a polling booth in Grand Rapids, Michigan, demanding a ballot. She is turned away.


1876

Indigenous people cannot vote

The Supreme Court rules that Native Americans are not citizens as defined by the 14th Amendment and, thus, cannot vote.


1882

Chinese cannot be American

The Chinese Exclusion Act bars people of Chinese ancestry from naturalising to become US citizens.


1887

Assimilation = Right to Vote

Dawes Act passed. It grants citizenship to Native Americans who give up their tribal affiliations.


1890

Wyoming legislates female suffrage

Wyoming admitted to statehood and becomes first state to legislate voting for women in its constitution.


1890

Indigenous people must apply for citizenship

The Indian Naturalization Act grants citizenship to Native Americans whose applications are approved - similar to the process of immigrant naturalisation.


1912-13

Women march for voting rights

Women lead voting rights marches through New York and Washington, DC.


1919

Military Service = Citizenship for Native Americans

Native Americans who served in the military during World War I are granted US citizenship.


1920

Right to vote extended to women

19th Amendment passed, giving women the right to vote in both state and federal elections.


1922

Asian ≠ White ≠ Citizen

Supreme Court rules that people of Japanese heritage are ineligible to become naturalised citizens. In the next year, the court finds that "Asian Indians" are also not eligible to naturalise.


1924

Again, citizenship granted but voting denied

The Indian Citizenship Act grants citizenship to Native Americans, but many states nonetheless make laws and policies that prohibit Native Americans from voting.


1926

State violence used to prevent people from exercising their right to vote

While attempting to register to vote in Birmingham, Alabama, a group of African American women are beaten by election officials.


1947

Legal barriers to Native American voting removed

Miguel Trujillo, a Native American and former Marine, sues New Mexico for not allowing him to vote. He wins and New Mexico and Arizona are required to give the vote to all Native Americans.


1952

People with Asian ancestry can vote

McCarran-Walter Act grants all people of Asian ancestry the right to become citizens.


1961

23rd amendment passed: Citizens of Washington, DC can vote for president

It gives citizens of Washington, DC the right to vote for the US president. But to this day, the district’s residents - nearly half of them are African- American - still do not have voting representation in Congress.


1963

Voting rights as civil rights

Large-scale efforts in the South to register African Americans to vote are intensified. However, state officials refuse to allow African Americans to register by using voting taxes, literacy tests and violent intimidation. Among the efforts launched is Freedom Summer, in which nearly a thousand civil rights workers of all races and backgrounds converge on the South to support voting rights.


1964

No tax required to vote

24th Amendment passed. It guarantees that the right to vote in federal elections will not be denied because of failure to pay any tax.


1965

Grassroots movement forces change in law

Voting Rights Act passed. It forbids states from imposing discriminatory restrictions on who can vote, and provides mechanisms for the federal government to enforce its provisions.


1966

After the legal change, struggle continues for social change

Civil rights activist James Meredith is wounded by a sniper during a solo “Walk Against Fear” voter registration march between Tennessee and Mississippi. The next day, nearly 4,000 African Americans register to vote. Other civil rights leaders such as Martin Luther King, Jr. and Stokely Carmichael continue the march while Meredith heals. Meredith re-joins the march at its conclusion in Mississippi.


1971

Voting age lowered to 18

26th Amendment passed, granting voting rights to 18-year-olds. The amendment is largely a result of Vietnam War protests demanding a lowering of the voting age on the premise that people who are old enough to fight are old enough to vote.


1975

Voting materials in various languages

Amendments to the Voting Rights Act require that certain voting materials be printed in languages besides English so that people who do not read English can participate in the voting process.


1993

Making voter registration easier

National Voter Registration Act passed. Intends to increase the number of eligible citizens who register to vote by making registration available at the Department of Motor Vehicles, and public assistance and disabilities agencies.


2000

Residents of US colonies are citizens, but cannot vote

A month before the presidential election, a federal court decides that Puerto Ricans living in Puerto Rico, though US citizens, cannot vote for the US president. Residents of US territories including Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa and the US Virgin Islands - nearly 4.1 million people in total - cannot vote in presidential elections and do not have voting representation in the US Congress.


2001

Debate - Should voting rights be taken away from felons? For how long?

The National Commission on Federal Election Reform recommends that all states allow felons to regain their right to vote after completing their criminal sentences.

Nearly four million US citizens cannot vote because of past felony convictions. In most states, felons are prohibited from voting while they are in prison or on parole. In some states, especially in the South, a person with a felony conviction is forever prohibited from voting in that state. These laws are a legacy of post-Civil War attempts to prevent African Americans from voting. Ex-felons are largely poor and disproportionately of colour.


2002

Massive voting reform

To solve election inconsistency with more federal voting standards, the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) is passed in response to the disputed 2000 presidential election. Massive voting reform effort requires states to comply with a federal mandate for provisional ballots, disability access, centralised, computerised voting lists, electronic voting and the requirement that first-time voters present identification before voting.


2009

The Military and Overseas Empowerment Act

The act established more efficient means for troops stationed overseas and expatriates to request and receive absentee ballots through the mail or electronically.


2013

Part of Voting Rights Act struck down

The Supreme Court validated a law requiring that politicians in states with a history of discriminating against minority voters get federal permission before changing voting rules. Civil rights activists say the law is still needed to ensure fair political representation and access to voting.