Voting Rights Timeline

1789

With the signing of the Constitution of the United States, the right to vote is extended to white, property-owning men.

1792

New Hampshire becomes the first state to eliminate property requirements for voting.

1828

Maryland becomes the last state to remove religious restrictions. States can no longer deny eligible voters the right to vote on the basis of religion.

1848

The first women’s suffrage conference convenes in Seneca Falls, NY. At the conference, 62 women and 32 men signed the Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions which called for equal treatment of men and women under the law and voting rights for women.

1856

North Carolina becomes the last state to eliminate property requirements for voting purposes.

1866
1868

The Civil Rights Act grants citizenship but not the right to vote to all persons born in the U.S. The U.S. Congress passes and the States ratified the Fourteenth Amendment to enforce and ensure “equal protection of the laws” for all person born or naturalized in the U.S.

1869
1870

The U.S. Congress passed, and the States ratified, the Fifteenth Amendment. The right to vote is extended to all male citizens regardless of “race, color, or previous condition of servitude.”

1915

In Guinn v United States, the US Supreme Court struck down grandfather clauses.

1919
1920

Congress adopts and the states ratify the Nineteenth Amendment. The right to vote is now extended to all citizens regardless of gender.

1924

The Indian Citizenship Act of 1924 declares all non-citizen Native Americans born in the USA to be citizens with the right to vote.

1948

The last state laws denying Native Americans the right to vote are overturned.

1957

The Civil Rights Act of 1957 authorizes the US Attorney General to file lawsuits on behalf of African Americans denied the right to vote.

1960

The Civil Rights Act of 1960 is passed, making collection of state voter records mandatory and authorizes the US Justice Department to investigate and access the voter data and history of all states in order to carry out civil rights litigation.

1964

The U.S. Congress passes and the states ratify the Twenty-fourth Amendment outlawing poll taxes.

1964

The U.S. Supreme Court solidifies the concept of one person, one vote as the national standard in Reynolds v. Sims.

1964

President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which outlaws discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.

1965

Civil Rights activists from the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee attempt to march from Selma, Alabama to Montgomery as part of nonviolent protests against the racist laws and behaviors denying black Americans the right to vote.

1965

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 is signed into law. This Act prohibits any election practice that denies the right to vote to citizens on the basis of race. It forces jurisdictions with histories of voter discrimination to submit any changes in its election laws to the government for federal approval prior to taking effect.

1966

The U.S. Supreme Court affirms the constitutionality of the Voting Rights Act in South Carolina v. Katzenbach.

1966

The U.S. Supreme Court strikes down poll taxes as a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment in Harper v. Virginia State Board of Elections.

1970

The U.S Congress renews the temporary provisions of the Voting Rights Act for the next five years.

1970
1971

The U.S. Congress passes and the States ratify the 26th Amendment which extends the right to vote to all citizens age 18 and over.

1975

The Voting Rights Act’s special provisions are extended. Congress adds new amendments that ban literacy tests and mandate assistance to language minority voters.

1982

The U.S. Congress extends the Voting Rights Act for 25 years. It also amends the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to permit finding of discrimination without proof that the state specifically intended to discriminate.

1990

The passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act ensures that election workers and polling sites provide services designed to ensure that individuals with disabilities can vote.

1992

The language minority provisions of the Voting Rights Act are extended for the next 15 years.

1993

The National Voter Registration Act (also known as the Motor Voter Act) requires states to permit mail-in registration, and it makes registration services available at the DMV’s, unemployment offices, and other state agencies.

2002

The Help America Vote Act creates minimal standards of election administration, provides for provisional ballot voting, and sets aside funds to help states improve outdated voter systems.

2006

The Voting Rights Act is extended for another 25 years.

2009

The Military and Overseas Empowerment Act establishes more efficient means for troops stationed overseas and expatriates to request and receive absentee ballots through the mail or electronically.

2015

Oregon is the first state to pass and implement (in 2016) automatic voter registration.


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