Voting was not always a default right for all Americans. Article 1 of the Constitution determined that members of the Senate and House of Representatives would both be elected directly by popular vote. The president, however, would be elected not by direct vote, but rather by the Electoral College. Because the Constitution did not specifically say who could vote, this question was largely left to the states into the 1800s. In most cases, landowning white men were eligible to vote, while white women, black people, and other disadvantaged groups of the time were excluded from voting. It was not until the 15th Amendment was passed in 1869 that black men were allowed to vote. But even still, many voters faced artificial hurdles like poll taxes, literacy tests, and other measures. The 24thAmendment in 1964 eliminated the poll tax and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 ended Jim Crow laws. Women were denied the right to vote until 1920. These amendments removEd the previous barriers to voting particularly sex and race. In 1971, the American voting age became 18, building on the idea that if a person was old enough to serve their country in the military, they should be allowed to vote.
Your vote matters! If you ever think that just one vote in a sea of millions cannot make much of a difference, consider some of the closest elections in U.S. history.In 2000, Al Gore narrowly lost the Electoral College vote to George W. Bush. The elect ion came down to a recount in Florida. Bush won Florida by 0.009 percent of the votes cast in the state, or 537 votes. If your vote joins enough others in your voting district or county, your vote undoubtedly matters when it comes to electoral results.
Let your voice be heard! Even if you are not over the age of 18 and unable to vote, you can still do your part as an American citizen - be informed, get out and talk to people, and volunteer.
To learn more about the history and importance of voting in the U.S., visit nationalgeographic.com.