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.
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 Naturalization Law passed. It explicitly states that only “free white” immigrants can become naturalised citizens.
New Hampshire becomes the first state to eliminate its property requirements, thereby extending the right to vote to almost all free white men.
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.
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.
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.
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.
North Carolina is the last state to remove property ownership as a requirement to vote.
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.
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.
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.
The Supreme Court rules that Native Americans are not citizens as defined by the 14th Amendment and, thus, cannot vote.
The Chinese Exclusion Act bars people of Chinese ancestry from naturalising to become US citizens.
Dawes Act passed. It grants citizenship to Native Americans who give up their tribal affiliations.
Wyoming admitted to statehood and becomes first state to legislate voting for women in its constitution.
The Indian Naturalization Act grants citizenship to Native Americans whose applications are approved - similar to the process of immigrant naturalisation.
Women lead voting rights marches through New York and Washington, DC.
Native Americans who served in the military during World War I are granted US citizenship.
19th Amendment passed, giving women the right to vote in both state and federal elections.
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.
The Indian Citizenship Act grants citizenship to Native Americans, but many states nonetheless make laws and policies that prohibit Native Americans from voting.
While attempting to register to vote in Birmingham, Alabama, a group of African American women are beaten by election officials.
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.
McCarran-Walter Act grants all people of Asian ancestry the right to become citizens.
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.
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.
24th Amendment passed. It guarantees that the right to vote in federal elections will not be denied because of failure to pay any tax.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The act established more efficient means for troops stationed overseas and expatriates to request and receive absentee ballots through the mail or electronically.
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.