The United States has a long established history of voter disenfranchisement, a history that it lives today. Did you know?

Did you know 1

  • Voter disenfranchisement continues today through Voter ID laws which disproportionately affect Black and trans people, both of whom are more likely to vote for more liberal policies and Democrats.

Due to the decision made in Shelby v Holder in 2013, states which would have previously required federal preclearance before making changes to their voting laws were able to implement new voting laws which disproportionately affected Black constituents, including 13 Republican-controlled states which now require a valid ID or passport to vote –25% of eligible black voters do not have valid IDs compared to only 9% of white voters. Trans people are also affected by these laws due to difficulty in obtaining an ID that reflects one’s gender and/or name.


did you know 2

  • Voter ID laws impact millennial-aged voters disproportionately.

Continuing the long history of disenfranchising the most economically vulnerable, these laws prevent many young Americans from exercising their right to vote. Some states do not accept student ID as a valid form of identification at the polls which makes it very difficult for college students participate in the voting process. Furthermore, as a generation with significantly less economic mobility than those before them, home ownership is far out of reach for many millennials and they often do not have a permanent home address on their state ID that aligns with their current living situation, as being poor often leads to frequent address changes.


did you know 3

  • 1 in 13 Black Americans have lost their voting rights to felony disenfranchisement. This is true of only 1 in 56 non black voters.

Felon disenfranchisement laws were contrived with the intent to disenfranchise as many Black citizens as possible just after the Civil War. Black women make up nearly 36% of female felony disenfranchisement.


did you know 4

  • Native American voter suppression is accomplished by a lack of polling locations and translators coupled with strict voter identification laws, sometimes requiring travel of up to 400 miles for in person voting.

The move to a mail-only election disenfranchised many Native Americans, especially those who do not read or speak English and had limited access to mail.


did you know 5

  • Residents of Puerto Rico and other U.S. territories do not have voting representation in the United States Congress, and are not entitled to electoral votes for President.

Despite being a point of contention since the U.S. granted citizenship to Puerto Ricans in 1917, residents remain unrepresented in Congress and unable to participate in federal elections, including the Presidential election, per Electoral College provisions. This also includes voters in the Virgin Islands, Guam, and American Samoa.


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  • The National American Women’s Suffrage Association, which is heralded as playing a pivotal role in the passing of the 19th amendment, INTENTIONALLY excluded Black women’s suffrage interests to gain wider support.

As the impending reality of women’s suffrage continued to gain momentum in the early 19th century, the inclusion and involvement of Black American women threatened stability and advancement of the movement.  As a response to these anti-black sentiments, the NAWSA embraced a more limited vision for women’s voting rights, upholding the continued history of white supremacist political interests.


did you know 6

  • Until about forty five years ago, Spanish-speaking and other non-English speaking citizens were met with discriminatory practices which effectively strong-armed them out of the voting process due to strict language requirements.

Despite the substantial progress in voter enfranchisement that was established by the 1965 Voting Rights Act, it wasn’t until a decade later that voting materials were finally required to be available in languages besides English.


did you know 8

  • Tens of thousands of disabled Americans do not have the right to vote under state guardianship laws.

In many states, individuals with disabilities are disqualified from voting due to court appointment of a guardian; the only way for these individuals to have their voting rights restored is if they have proven the ability and expressed the desire to vote–a standard that other citizens are not required to meet. Questions such as “why do you want to vote” or “how would you vote on [a particular issue],” are imposed upon them, requiring them to hyper-qualify for their right to cast a ballot.


Voting Access Timeline

1776: Only people who own land can vote – mostly white male protestants over the age of 21.

1790: Naturalization Law declares that only “free white” immigrants can become naturalized.

1848:The Mexican-American War culminates with The Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo which grants U.S. citizenship to Mexicans living in territories conquered by the U.S. However, English language requirements and violent intimidation limit access to voting rights.

1868: 14th amendment to the U.S. Constitution passed. Citizenship is defined and granted to formerly enslaved Black Americans.

1870: Black men gain the right to vote under the 15th amendment. However, soon after, several states use measures such as voting taxes, literacy tests, violence, and intimidation to restrict the ability of Black Americans to register to vote.

1887: The Dawes Act grants citizenship to Native Americans who are willing to disassociate themselves from their tribe, making them technically eligible to vote, but only if they assimilate.

1920: On August 18th, women gain the right to vote. Under the 19th Amendment, technically all women are afforded voting rights; however, active racial and socio-economic discrimination prevent non-white women from effectively participating.

1924: All Native Americans are granted citizenship and the right to vote, regardless of tribal affiliation under the Indian Citizenship Act. Around two thirds of Native Americans are already citizens at this point, either through applying for citizenship or serving in WWI, but many states continue to pass laws preventing Native Americans from voting until 1962.

1926: While attempting to register to vote in Birmingham, Alabama, a group of Black women are violently physically assaulted by election officials.

1943: Chinese immigrants are given the right to citizenship and the right to vote through the Magnuson Act (Citizenship and voting rights are not extended to Filipinos until 1946, and for Japanese Americans and other Asian Americans, it does not come until 1952).

1960s: After taking notice of the strategies used by African-American women suffrage activists, white southerners targeted Black women directly with disenfranchisement methods. They were forced to wait in line for as long as twelve hours just to register to vote, they were charged head taxes, and new tests were implemented. One such test offered voter eligibility only if they were able to read and interpret passages from the Constitution.

1961: The 23rd amendment is passed, giving citizens of Washington, D.C. the right to vote for U.S. president. However, even presently, the mostly Black American district’s resident still do not have voting representation in Congress.

1964: The 24th amendment prohibits voting taxes, leaving women of lower socioeconomic status with one less barrier.

1965: The Voting Rights Act is passed, forbidding states from imposing discriminatory restrictions on who can vote, and provides mechanisms for the federal government to enforce its provisions. The legislation is passed largely under pressure from protests and marches earlier that year challenging Alabama officials who injured and killed people during African American voter registration efforts.

1975: Amendments to Voting Rights Act require that certain voting materials be printed in languages in addition to English so that non-English speakers and readers can participate in the voting process.

1993: National Voter Registration Act passes, intending to increase the number of eligible citizens who register to vote by making registration available at the Department of Motor Vehicles, and public assistance and disabilities agencies.



Resources and Recommended Readings:

http://massvote.org/voterinfo/history-of-voting-rights/

https://www.theodysseyonline.com/the-19th-amendment-did-not-allow-women-to-vote

https://interactive.aljazeera.com/aje/2016/us-elections-2016-who-can-vote/index.html

http://www.teachingforchange.org/selma-bottom-up-history

http://www.npr.org/2016/09/04/492430780/disabled-and-fighting-for-the-right-to-vote

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