Voting has always been a valuable act for Americans in many meanings. However, it has not always been equal for every resident of the United States. Many groups of people were not allowed to vote, which meant it was impossible for them to choose, influence, and change the place of their life. While voting is fundamental in a democracy, only two hundred and a half years ago, the only category of people that had an exclusive right to vote were land-owning white men. It was also the same with the candidates for presidentship. Nowadays, an average American only needs to be a resident of the state in which he/she votes, a US citizen, and eighteen years old to have a vote ability. The expansion of suffrage is a crucial topic for American society, and it can be seen in the history of voting. The United States of America overcame the issue of inequality in voting but needs to continue its path.
Women’s Right to Vote
From the beginning of American history, racial and gender prejudice was a reality that citizens faced in terms of their rights and people’s attitude toward minorities. The United States is on the list of nineteen countries that “restricted the right to vote for women initially” (Schaeffer, 2020). Even when voting barriers began to recede in the nineteenth century, individual states, especially in the South, established new ones that impacted the African Americans’ ability to vote, such as literacy tests. These changes created justice hypocrisy because black Americans did not have access to education like others and were bounded by these new rules. At the beginning of the twentieth century, women could vote in several states but not the whole country. With the ratification of the nineteenth amendment American Constitution in 1920, women won the right they fought for and gained the ability to vote nationwide. The nineteenth amendment declared that “the right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex” (Women’s Suffrage Rights, 1920). After decades of battling society, women could finally be full members of their communities.
Racism in Voting
Literacy tests and poll taxes spread out and came to a head in 1960 and restrained immigrants, different ethnic groups, and residents with low income. Poll taxes were invented to keep the poor people away from the election, including the colored population. Every person that wanted to vote needed to pay money for that. However, in some states, people with higher incomes did not pay them, calling that “grandfather clauses.” In 1965 March activists headed by Martin Luther King started protest marches to draw attention to the issue of injustice in voting rights for African Americans. The first march was called “Bloody Sunday” because of an attack. These events activated the wave of global changes in the voting system. In 1965 in spring, Congress adopted the Voting Rights Act. In 1966 it was proclaimed that poll taxes are unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. It is essential to mention that until that period of time, only people aged twenty-one and older were able to vote. In the 1960s, the movement to lower the age limit to eighteen gained momentum and resulted in the twenty-sixth amendment.
That moved young people to become more active in politics and the country’s life in general. That was one of the critical steps to awareness in politics. In recent Austrian research, it is “suggested that newly enfranchised sixteen- and seventeen-year-olds became more interested in politics, and were more likely to vote at eighteen than youth who were eligible to vote at eighteen” (Wray-Lake, 2019, p. 3). That means that young people want to be involved in politics.
In 1982 Congress extended the Voting Rights Act, and states were required to make voting more accessible for people with special needs and pensioners. On 2013 thirteenth of August, the governor of North Carolina signed a voter identification law. Many people perceived it as a way to suppress ethnic groups in voting. However, after a lawsuit, it was struck down in North Carolina. A federal judge commented that “it targeted African Americans with almost surgical precision” (Carnegie Corporation of New York, 2019, pa. 19). The problem continued in 2018 when Senate in Georgia restricted weekend early voting and cut voting hours in Atlanta.
Both these measures impacted color communities because more than half of African American population in Atlanta and Sunday voting after church in black communities. The United States still has the same issues about voting oppression and racism in general that affect voting. However, the stratum of society that suffered the most from voting restrictions was black women. Besides being oppressed because of race, they were also humiliated because of their sex. When African American men were not considered humans, black women were even worse in people’s eyes and had even fewer rights. However, even though they are not remembered as symbols of the fifteenth and nineteenth amendments because of black men and white women, they played a crucial role in the universal suffrage battle. They gathered in their local churches and planned ways to gain their deserved rights. Black women were usually excluded from different organizations and were forced to march separately in suffrage parades. Black men and white women wanted them to join their movements and support them. They found themselves between the devil and the deep sea because nobody understood their unique issues and calls.
Black Women Prejudice
African American women fought for human rights in general because of their belonging to several societal groups. The suffrage issue was only one of the many, including harassment, job and education inequality, and other problems based on stereotypes and racism. Roumell et al. (2021) state that “while those in power worked to reinforce the national narrative of racial and gender inferiority, Black journalism and community organizations worked to educate society to reject representations of Black subordination” (p. 23). After the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment, many states continued to legislate discrimination against black men and women. That is why they had to keep fighting for their rights. Their efforts led America to the breakthrough Voting Rights Act. It declared that “all citizens of the United States who are otherwise qualified by law to vote at any election shall be entitled and allowed to vote at all such elections without distinction of race” (Voting Rights Act, 1965). All these acts and amendments were passed one day, but it was tens of thousands of such days before, filled with efforts to make a difference.
Modern Fraud Issues
Even though the United States of America is a democratic and advanced country, there is still the possibility of voting Fraud during every election. Postal voting is available in many states, including California, Washington, Colorado, and Utah. During Trump’s presidency, there were concerns about this type of voting increasing Fraud. However, there is much proof that this way of voting is normal and fair. Studies show that the postal vote “increases political participation – to the advantage of neither Democrats nor Republicans” (Auerbach et al., 2021, p. 18). There is no difference between standard and mail voting methods because they are paper ballots that people sign. There were also concerns about using pets to fill a ballot instead of dead people, but there are only eleven confirmed cases like this. However, voting fraud does not depend on this way of voting and pushes off other things.
Every country needs to continue growing and developing on equality and equity because there cannot be perfect countries. The fact of the whole population being deliberate, pro-equality, and democratic in their minds is impossible, but Americans need to continue growing in this field, spreading the equality mindset across the country. It is a global responsibility to accept every human regardless of gender, race, and other characteristics. Even though the world is making progress on this question, it is vital to keep working hard for every human to feel safe and accepted in this world.
To conclude, the United States of America has a deep history of expanding suffrage and fighting for the right to vote. Even though there were dark spots in the history of the US, it is crucial that America still develops diversity awareness. Every human deserves the right to be heard, which applies to any gender, race, ethnicity, age, or sexual orientation. The voting process is a cornerstone of people understanding their value for the state and community they are located. The United States should be aware to never return to the mistakes of the past and continue evolving equality.
Auerbach, J. & Pierson, S. (2021). Does voting by mail increase fraud? Estimating the change in reported voter fraud when states switch to elections by mail. Statistics and Public Policy, 8(1), 18-41.
Carnegie Corporation of New York. (2019). Voting Rights: A Short History. Web.
Roumell, E. A., & James-Gallaway, A. D. (2021). Social movements, community education, and the fight for racial justice: Black women and social transformation. New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education, 2021(170), 21-31.
Schaeffer, K. (2020). Key facts about women’s suffrage around the world, a century after U.S. ratified 19th Amendment. Pew Research Center. Web.
Voting Rights Act, Publ. L. No. 89-110. (1965). Web.
Women’s Suffrage Rights, Amendment XIX. (1920). Web.
Wray-Lake, L. (2019). How do young people become politically engaged? Child Development Perspectives, 0(0), 1-6.