The Evolution of Voting / by kevin murray

Voting has vastly changed since the inception of this great country, whereas voting was once restricted to strictly white property-owning males, voting is now readily available to all adults of age eighteen and above with little restrictions to your ability to vote.  Additionally, even though states have historically set their own standards and definitions as to how, where, and whom is eligible to vote, these variations have been for the most part standardized over recent years, so that voting in America truly has become democratized and by virtue of the fact that the ballot is now available to all, voting in elections does represent the people as a whole.


Initially in America, suffrage was limited to white male property owners, in which the thinking of that day and age was that voting should be limited to and also reflect those that were mature individuals, established, respectable, and that had a vested interest in their community.  However, over time, the property requirement was removed from most States, due in part to new States being added to the Union that did not require this particular restriction, the devastation of the Panic of 1819 in which overextended credit led to bank and property ownership failures, and the fact that the rural population had a higher proportion of eligible voters as compared to city dwellers that could not afford to buy or had a need to buy land in town.


The fact that the voting requirements had changed is the probable reason why Andrew Jackson was elected in 1928, in which he was considered to be the choice of the common man, as opposed to the previous Presidents that had been elected, all of whom were considered to be of a more refined class, east coast based, educated and/or wealthy. 


After the civil war, the 15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified, which gave the vote to all males, regardless of race or color.  Unfortunately, all States, but in particular southern States were able to circumvent this new Amendment and new law over time, in which the Southern States also added poll taxes, so that in order to vote, you had to pay for that privilege, which implicitly eliminatedmany impoverished blacks from voting.  Additionally, saddled onto your capacity to vote, unless you had been grandfathered in, were so-called "literacy tests" which were in effect, tests that had little to do with literacy and a lot to do with purposeful failure for those that were targeted in which the questions were setup in such a way, that you were destined to get the answers wrong.


In 1920, the 19th Amendment to our Constitution was ratified, which gave the right to vote to women, in which slowly but inexorably over time, the percentage of eligible women voting increased so that at the present time, women outvote men.  In fact, in the 2008 Presidential election, 65.7% of eligible female votes voted vs. just 61.5% of men, in which the number of women that voted was 70.4 million vs. only 60.7 million men.  Because women do not vote in lockstep with men, but instead have their own issues and agendas that mean most to them, voting and its incumbent results have changed forever in America.


Finally, in 1965, the national Voting Rights Act was passed into law, which effectively rolled back the arbitrary and discriminatory rules made previously by most Southern States to preclude minorities from registering and voting, allowing the vote to become truly democratic for all citizens of the United States for the first time.  Therefore, today, each adult (non-felon) citizen of the United States has the same capacity and capability to cast their vote. 


The ballot box is effectively ours.