Justice in Voting is a Long, Step-by-Step Struggle
US Voting Timeline Shows Some Highlights
This timeline is being circulated by the American Friends Service Committee (www.afsc.org). We added one item for the year 2000.
Voting Timeline 1776-2000
1776 - White men with property can vote. Free black men can vote in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Connecticut. (The Progress Report adds -- in Maryland between 1776-1783 free black men could vote, but between 1783-1810 only those who were freed prior to 1783 were permitted to vote, and after 1810 no black men at all were allowed to vote.)
1789 - Establishment of US democracy. White men with property can vote. Poor people, Women, Native Americans, and enslaved African- Americans cannot vote.
1790 - From 1770 to 1790 each state has individual naturalization laws. In 1790 the US passes its first naturalization law to grant citizenship to white men and some women. The right to vote is tied directly to citizenship status; it is only for whites who have lived in the country for 2 years. In 1798 the law is changed so immigrant whites have to live in the US for 14 years before they can become citizens. This changed to 5 years after 1902.
1820 - The property laws are taken off the books and whites can vote even if they do not own property. But they must pay a poll tax or be able to read and, in some places, they must pass religious tests before they can vote.
1840 - Poll taxes, literacy taxes and religion tests are taken off the books. Only white men can vote.
1848 - The Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo ends the Mexican-American War. The treaty guarantees citizenship to Mexicans living in the newly acquired territories of Arizona, California, New Mexico, Texas and Nevada. Voting rights are denied. Mexican-Americans are not allowed to vote despite having US citizenship. Property laws, language and literacy requirements are the favored way of keeping people from voting. There are also the Night Riders who use intimidation and violence.
1860 - Five states, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Rhode Island and Massachusetts allow free black men to vote.
1866 - The Civil War ends in 1865. Civil Rights Act of 1866 grants citizenship to native-born Americans but excludes Native Americans.
1870 - The 15th Amendment establishes the right of African-American males to vote. In the South especially, poll taxes, reading requirements, physical violence, property destruction, hiding the polls, and economic pressures keep most African-Americans from voting. The Ku Klux Klan is a major part of the violence and intimidation used to keep African-Americans from voting.
1882 - The Chinese Exclusion Act bars people of Chinese ancestry from becoming citizens. They cannot vote.
1887 - The Dawes Act gives citizenship only to Native Americans who give up their tribal affiliations.
1890 - The Indian Naturalization Act grants citizenship to Native Americans in an application process similar to immigrant naturalization.
1901 - Congress grants citizenship to Native Americans living in Indian Territory (Oklahoma).
1920 - Prior to 1920, some parts of the country let women vote. What or whom they can vote for depends on the area they are in. Some can vote only in school elections. Women in the Wyoming and Utah territory and Colorado have full voting rights. It isn't until 1920 that all women have the right to vote.
1921 - The Sons of America are organized to fight for equality and the rights of Mexican Americans as citizens, including the right to vote. It will be 1975 before the right to vote is available to all Mexican-Americans.
1922 - In the case of Takao v. United States the US Supreme Court upholds the 1790 Naturalization Act that barred Asian-Americans from becoming citizens. This enforces the policy of no voting rights for Asian immigrants.
1923 - The court ruling in the case Bhagat Singh Thind v. The US rules that Asian Indians are eligible for citizenship. Technically, as citizens, they can now vote. However, almost all immigrants who are people of color continue to be denied the right to vote.
1924 - The service of Native Americans during World War I helps to bring about the 1924 Indian Citizenship Act. The Act grants Native Americans citizenship, but many western states refuse to allow them to vote. Some of the tactics used to discourage voting includes physical violence, destruction of property, economic pressures, poll taxes, hiding the polls and reading requirements.
1943 - The Chinese Exclusion Act is repealed, making immigrants of Chinese ancestry eligible for citizenship.
1946 - Filipinos are now allowed to become citizens.
1952 - The McCarran-Walter Act repeals racial restrictions of 1790 Naturalization Law. First generation Japanese can now become citizens.
1965 - In a direct response to the Civil Rights movement led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and others, The Voting Rights Act of 1965 is enacted. It bans literacy tests in the Deep South and provides federal enforcement of black voter registration and voting rights. This Act affects Virginia, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, and South Carolina. It also applies in Alaska.
1970 - The 1970 Voting Rights Act bans literacy tests in 20 states including New York, Illinois, California and Texas.
1971 - The 26th Amendment gives voting rights to 18 year olds in response to protests for men under 21 drafted for the Vietnam War.
1975 - The Voting Rights Act is amended to include language assistance to minority voters. Language requirements have been used routinely to keep the vote from US born citizens who speak other languages. Now the Voting Rights Act has some real impact and enforcement in the Southwest.
1990 - The Americans with Disabilities Act requires access to the polls and to the ballot.
2000 - Vote fraud scandals in Florida and elsewhere. Thousands of eligible voters are prevented from voting. Over one million ballots are never counted.
Adapted from a document by the www.womens-project.org from Page 9 of Transformation, Spring 2004
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