Voting is a democratic system used to give citizens a say in electing leaders. This practice is exercised all over the world, and of course, in the United States. It is a system used from the start of this country, but has experienced many changes in the system. In the U.
S Constitution, there are several amendments dealing with suffrage, showing the progression of voting rights throughout the country’s history. Voting began as something for only wealthy white men, then Africans and former slaves got the right, followed by women, and eventually the age limit was lowered. These amendments engendered a large amount of controversy, sparking disagreements across the country, but they were eventually passed. As a result of the 15th, 19th, and 26th amendment, today almost anyone, provided they are 18 or older, can participate in the crucial task of choosing our country’s leader. These amendments are very important, for if not for them, America’s government system wouldn’t be as democratic and the majority of citizens would not be able to vote, opposing the fundamental principle that all men are created equal which America was built on.From the start of the United States, a voting system was established to select leaders. However, it was a lot more exclusive initially than it is now. Only white men who owned land were able to vote.
It was extremely restricted, for not many were wealthy then. It was not until February 3 of 1870 that this law was changed with the passing of the 15th Amendment (“15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution”, n.
d.). It gave Africans who were formerly enslaved the right to vote, proceeding the 14th Amendment that ended slavery (“14th Amendment”, n.d.). It officially declared that, “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 race, color, or previous condition of servitude” (“15th Amendment to the U.
S. Constitution”, n.d.). Although seemingly a good idea, the still segregated United States was able to impose barriers and tests to further prevent them from voting. For example, the literacy test was enforced, and since they had previously been enslaved, none were educated. It was not until almost a century later, when the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was signed, putting an official end to these tests, that this amendment was fulfilled (“Voting Rights Act”, n.d.
). Although the 15th Amendment was a great step for the United States, at least superficially, people weren’t yet satisfied. From the start of the country, and from the very beginning of history, women were regarded as inferior to men. They were given less rights all throughout history, for it was something that seemed completely ordinary. Eventually, some women began to see the ignorance of this policy and began objecting. After women had helped campaign for the 15th Amendment, they thought that they should get the right to vote too, saying that it wasn’t fair that they fought for suffrage for former slaves but were excluded from the amendment themselves (“Voting Amendments in the U.S.”, n.
d.). It was a long, difficult, and seemingly endless struggle, but they eventually prevailed and began winning, and many people started siding with them. In 1920, after endless protests, the 19th Amendment for women’s suffrage was finally passed (“19th Amendment”, n.d.
). This happened thanks to the support and help of President Woodrow Wilson. (“Voting Amendments in the U.S.”, n.d.) It was a great victory for women and men, and a great victory for America, which had begun taking steps toward freedom and equality.
The 26th Amendment, although it may not seem like it, also shows the progression of rights through American History. The debate of lowering the voting age to 18 began during World War II (Jocelyn Benson and Michael T. Morley, “The 26th Amendment”, n.d.). Young men of this age were being sent to fight for their country but were not able to participate in voting.
This disagreement intensified with the Vietnam War, where many more 18-21 year olds were sent to fight. A common slogan supporting this change was “Old enough to fight, old enough to vote”. They believed that if they could fight and had to risk their lives for their country, they should at least be able to vote in return. The fact that they had to go to war but not vote was viewed as hypocrisy. People began giving in, and their protests were heard. Some people thought that they could vote but only for president and vice president. This ignited additional protest, and in March of 1971, the amendment was passed they were given the full right to vote.
It was ratified within less than four months, the shortest ratification period for any amendment. The passing of these amendments had a great impact on America. For example, the 15th Amendment changed the course of many elections, like the 1868 one in particular (“Background of the 15th Amendment”, n.d.
). The 15th Amendment was meant to help give the Republican party, who supported the abolishment of slavery, freedom, and other aspects of this notion, more power throughout the South. The vote of Africans would definitely give the Republican party a large push, and the amendment was meant to give them power throughout the North and South. In 1868, the first election after the Civil War, the Reconstruction greatly affected it (Brooks Simpson, “The Election of 1868”, 2011). Although the 15th Amendment was not officially ratified then, it was violently enforced by the Republican military, giving African Americans the right to vote in certain states. In 1864, the reelection of Lincoln was a great victory for the Republican party. After Lincoln was assassinated, his running mate, Andrew Johnson took over.
Johnson was very unpopular and was eventually impeached. In the next election, the Democrat