The Right to Vote
The Founders and the Vote
In the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson wrote, "Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed." But how would Americans "consent" to be governed? Who should vote? How should they vote? The founders wrestled with these and many other questions.
Voting Rights for African Americans
A terrible and bloody Civil War freed enslaved Americans. The Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution (1868) subsequently granted African Americans the rights of citizenship. Sadly, this did not always translate into the right to vote. Even after Congress passed the Fifteenth Amendment providing the right to vote, it would be many years before African Americans would be allowed to fully participate in the process.
Voting Rights for Women
1776: Abigail Adams writes to her husband, John, who is attending the Continental Congress in Philadelphia, asking that he and the other men--who were at work on the Declaration of Independence--"Remember the Ladies." John responds with humor. The Declaration's wording specifies that "all men are created equal." It would be over 140 years before women would be granted the right to vote.
Voting Rights for Native Americans
It's often overlooked that self-government in America was practiced by Native Americans, long before the formation of the United States government. Yet Native Americans faced many of the same hurdles as African Americans and women before gaining the right to vote.
Who Can Vote Today?
As a result of many battles, laws and amendments, modern day voting is a much simpler matter. To vote in a presidential election today, you must be 18 years old, a United States citizen and not a convicted felon. Each state has its own requirements, but the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 makes registering simple.