Voting Timeline

The original 13 states require white males to own property and pay taxes in order to vote. Free black men can vote in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Connecticut.

February 4, 1789 gathered
The first presidential election. There is only one candidate, George Washington. Each state has one electoral vote.

Owning property is no longer a requirement to vote. For the next 20 years white men must still pay a poll tax or be able to read and, in some places, they must pass religious tests before they can vote.

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, but their voting rights are denied. Property laws, language and literacy requirements are used to keep them from voting.

The Civil War ends in 1865. Civil Rights Act of 1866 grants citizenship to all native-born Americans but excludes Native Americans. (by now African American men had the right to vote in some states.)

February 1869
Fifteenth Amendment is ratified, giving African-American men the right to vote in all states.

August 18, 1879 gathered
Nineteenth Amendment ratified, extending the vote to women.

The Chinese Exclusion Act bars people of Chinese ancestry from becoming citizens. They cannot vote.

The first voting machine is invented by Thomas Edison. Congress complained that it workes too fast and refuses to use it. A new machine is invented in 1892 and used in Lockport, NY.

The Indian Naturalization Act grants citizenship to Native Americans through an application process similar to immigrant naturalization.

Congress extends U.S. citizenship to all Native Americans.

Early1940's gathered
The saying: "If they're old enough to fight for their country, they're old enough to vote for their country," becomes popular.

U.S. Sen. Jennings Randolph proposes legislation to amend the Constitution
to lower the voting age, but it is voted down.

1946-1956 The NAACP launches a massive effort to register African-Americans, causing a 400% rise in the number of blacks voting.

Puerto Rico becomes a "free associated state" – a special constitutional status unique to Puerto Rico and everyone on the island receives the vote.

The majority of soldiers in Vietnam are 19-years-old, and the slogan "Old enough to fight, old enough to vote" returns.

1965 gathered
Demanding stronger voting rights for black citizens, Martin Luther King Jr. organizes a march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. In what becomes known as "Bloody Sunday," the protesters are stopped and severely beaten by Alabama state troopers. Outraged by the attacks, Americans rally behind the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the first legislation to protect the rights of voters, which leads to its passage later that year.

Large anti-war protests 250, 000 protestors are led by young people in Washington, D.C.

Sen. Jennings Randolph puts forth what would be his 10th proposal for an amendment lowering the voting age from 21 to 18. The Bill passes unanimously in the Senate.

President Nixon formally certifies the 26th Amendment to the Constitution which reads:
"The right of citizens of the United States, who are eighteen years of age or older, to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of age."

Because of the 26th Amendment eleven million more people are eligible to vote - 50% of these young people vote in the 1972 election.

National Voter Registration Act makes registration more uniform and accessible ("Motor Voter"), allowing people to register to vote in at while they get their drivers licences.

2000 gathered
Voters across the country are shocked, outraged or simply confused when a sample recount in Florida sets off a 36-day political and legal wrestling match over who's president. In the closest presidential election in U.S. history, voters get a lesson in hanging chads and the Supreme Court eventually rules George W. Bush the winner.

The Help America Vote Act (HAVA) is signed into law, creating mandates for state and local governments to improve every part of the voting process, including voting machines, ballots, voter registration and poll worker training.

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