Suffrage has come a long way. At first, only white men who owned property could vote. Today, anyone who is an American citizen at least 18 years of age, a resident of the State in which they want to vote, and registered to vote may take part in an election. It was not easy getting to where we are today. There were many things that contributed to the expansion of suffrage, including the passing of three very important amendments: the 15th, the 19th, and the 26th Amendment.
African Americans were not allowed to vote at all before 1870. That year, the effort to expand voting rights to these individuals began with the 15th Amendment. The 15th Amendment declares that the right to vote cannot be denied to any citizen of the United States because of race, color, or previous condition of servitude. The amendment was intended to ensure that African American men could vote.
Yet African Americans still did not have the right to vote until almost 90 years after the amendment was ratified.
Even after the 15th Amendment, women of any race could not vote. This came to an end with the 19th Amendment, which prohibited the denial of the right to vote because of sex. This amendment was ratified in 1920 and by then, more than half of the States allowed women to vote. Wyoming was the first State to give suffrage to women. It did so in 1869.
The latest expansion to suffrage came with the adoption of the 26th Amendment in 1971. It provides that no State can set the minimum age for voting at more than 18 years of age. So, those 18 years of age or older now have the right to vote. Before the added amendment to our Constitution, the...