Did you know that when George Washington was elected President, only 6% of the population had the right to vote? Because voting was reserved exclusively to landowners – mostly causcasian male Protestants over the age of 21 – precious few voted in our first Presidential Election.
In 1848, a group of women and men, including Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott and her husband James, Martha C. Wright, Elizabeth McClintock and Frederick Douglass gathered together in Seneca Falls, NY in the Wesleyan Chapel to discuss the social, civil and religious conditions of women. Out of that First Women’s Rights Convention came the Declaration of Sentiments which held that “all men and women are created equal” and calling for universal voting rights.
By 1868 and 1870, the 14th and 15th Amendments gave former slaves the right to vote and prohibited the denial of voting to males on the basis of race, but many states used voting taxes and literacy to restrict voting rights.
In 1872, Suffragist Susan B. Anthony was arrested and brought to trial in Rochester, NY for attempting to vote in the election, in the same year as Sojournor Truth, a former slave, was turned away from the polls in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
In 1890, Wyoming became a state and was the first state making it a constitutional right for women to vote. During these years, Native American People and people of Asian and other ethnic heritage were still denied the right to vote.
In the early 1960’s, African Americans were still discouraged from voting through the use of voting taxes, literacy and intimidation tactics. Civil Rights Leaders such as James Meredith, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Stokely Carmichael worked to create social change and to ensure voting rights for African Americans. Finally, in 1965, the Voting Rights Act was passed, as a result of a grassroots movement which included protests and marches. This act prohibited states from imposing discriminatory restrictions on who was allowed to vote.
In 1971, the voting age was lowered to 18, largely as a result of pressure from Vietnam War Protesters demanding that anyone old enough to fight be given the right to vote.
Voting is a right and a privilege guaranteed to all U.S. Citizens, and no matter what your political allegiance, please VOTE TODAY. The polls are open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. CLICK HERE to find your voting location. If you have no transportation to your voting location, call your local Republican or Democratic party office. Most have arranged transportation to the polls for voters unable to get there without assistance.
For more on the history of voting, visit U.S. Voting Rights Timeline.