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Timeline of voting rights in the United States

This is a timeline of voting rights in the United States, documenting when various groups in the country gained the right to vote or were disenfranchised.




  • The Constitution of the United States recognizes that the states have the power to set voting requirements. A few states allowed free Black men to vote, and New Jersey also included unmarried and widowed women who owned property.[1]
  • Georgia removes property requirement for voting.[2]



  • The Naturalization Act of 1790 allows free white persons born outside of the United States to become citizens. However, since each state set its own requirements for voting, this Act (and its successor Naturalization Act of 1795) did not automatically grant these naturalized citizens the right to vote.[3]


  • Vermont is admitted as a new state, giving the vote to all men regardless of color or property ownership.[4]


  • New Hampshire removes property ownership as requirement to vote.[5]
  • Kentucky is admitted as a new state, giving the vote to free men regardless of color or property ownership, although the vote would shortly be taken away from free Black people.[4]
  • Delaware removes property ownership as requirement to vote, but continues to require that voters pay taxes.[2]


  • Georgia removes tax requirement for voting.[2]



  • Only three states, Kentucky, New Hampshire, and Vermont, had universal white male suffrage.[6]


  • Voting rights are taken away from free black men and all women in New Jersey.[1]


  • Economic crisis stemming from the Panic of 1819 led to greater calls from propertyless men for the abolition of restrictions to voting; by 1830, the number of states with universal white male suffrage had risen to ten, although six still had property qualifications and eight had taxpaying qualifications. Territories on the frontier, eager to attract new settlers, also helped expand suffrage.[6]


  • In 1821, the state of New York held a constitutional convention which removed property requirements for white male voters, but required that "persons of colour" own $250 worth of property, "over and above all debts," in order to vote. White male voters were instead required to pay a tax, but this rule was abolished in an amendment of 1826. Requirements for persons of color were not affected by this amendment.[7] Due to the state's policy of gradual emancipation, slavery persisted until 1827, but until then the proportion of African Americans who were free (and thus potential voters) steadily increased. Native Americans still controlled large territories in Upstate New York, and though typically excluded from citizenship altogether, the property requirement applied to any voter who was not white.


  • The 1828 presidential election was the first in which non-property-holding white males could vote in the vast majority of states. By the end of the 1820s, attitudes and state laws had shifted in favor of universal white male suffrage.[8]
  • Maryland passes a law to allow Jews to vote.[9] Maryland was the last state to remove religious restrictions for voting.[10]




  • Kentucky women are allowed to vote in school elections.[12]


Thomas Wilson Dorr of Rhode Island




  • Rhode Island drafts a new constitution extending voting rights to any free men regardless of whether they own property, provided they pay a $1 poll tax. Naturalized citizens are still not eligible to vote unless they own property.[14]





Ezekiel Gillespie, c. 1850


  • Tax-paying qualifications remained in five states in 1860 – Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Delaware and North Carolina. They survived in Pennsylvania and Rhode Island until the 20th century.[15] In addition, many poor whites were later disenfranchised.[16][17]



  • Citizenship is guaranteed to all male persons born or naturalized in the United States by the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, setting the stage for future expansions to voting rights.
  • November 3: The right of African American men to vote in Iowa is approved through a voter referendum.[19]





  • Minor v. Happersett goes to the Supreme Court, where it is decided that suffrage is not a right of citizenship and women do not necessarily have the right to vote.[22]






  • Citizenship is granted to Native Americans who are willing to disassociate themselves from their tribe by the Dawes Act, making those males technically eligible to vote.
  • Women in Washington lose the right to vote.[24]
  • Women in Utah lose the right to vote under the Edmunds–Tucker Act.[25]
  • Kansas women earn the right to vote in municipal elections.[20]
  • Arizona, Montana, New Jersey, North Dakota, and South Dakota grant partial suffrage to women.[12]



  • Native Americans can apply for citizenship through the Indian Naturalization Act.[26]




  • The right to vote in the territory of Hawaii is restricted to English and Hawaiian speaking men and the territory is not allowed to make its own suffrage legislation.[29]



  • Alabama enacts a cumulative poll tax in their state constitution. This means that all taxes that should have been paid since an eligible voter turned 21 must be paid before voting.[citation needed]



Suffragists in parade


  • Washington state restores women's right to vote through the state constitution.[24]



  • Women in Arizona and Kansas earn the right to vote.[25]
  • Women in Oregon earn the right to vote.[12]









  • All Native Americans are granted citizenship and the right to vote through the Indian Citizenship Act, regardless of tribal affiliation. By this point, approximately two thirds of Native Americans were already citizens.[35][36] Notwithstanding, some western states continued to bar Native Americans from voting until 1957.[37][38] South Dakota refused to follow the law.[39]




  • Nixon v. Herndon is heard by the Supreme Court, which rules that white primary laws are unconstitutional.[34]



  • Nixon v. Condon is heard by the Supreme Court which strikes down a Texas law to allow political parties to choose who can vote in their primary elections.[34]



  • Grovey v. Townsend decides that the Democratic Party, as private organization, can determine who is allowed to join and therefore vote in the primaries.[34]





  • The decision in Grovey v. Townsend is overturned by the case, Smith v. Allwright heard before the Supreme Court. It is decided that primary elections are an "integral component of the electoral process" and discrimination in participation in the primaries was prohibited.[34]




  • Butler v. Thompson is heard by the Supreme Court which rules that poll taxes are settled law that the state of Virginia is allowed to impose.[citation needed]



  • Native Americans living on reservations earn the right to vote in Maine.[43][44]


  • The provision in the North Dakota state constitution that required Native Americans to renounce their tribal affiliations two years before an election is removed.[45]


  • Alaska adopts a more lenient literacy test.[46]


Marchers with signs at the March on Washington





  • Protection of voter registration and voting for racial minorities, later applied to language minorities, is established by the Voting Rights Act of 1965.[10] This has also been applied to correcting discriminatory election systems and districting.
  • In Harman v. Forssenius the Supreme Court ruled that poll taxes or "equivalent or milder substitutes" cannot be imposed on voters.[citation needed]


  • Tax payment and wealth requirements for voting in state elections are prohibited by the Supreme Court in Harper v. Virginia Board of Elections.[23] The poll tax would remain on the books, unenforceable, until 2020.


Voting in the 1972 Presidential Primary Election in Birmingham, Alabama


  • Alaska ends the use of literacy tests.[46]
  • Native Americans who live on reservations in Colorado are first allowed to vote in the state.[52]



  • Requirement that a person reside in a jurisdiction for an extended period is prohibited by the Supreme Court in Dunn v. Blumstein, 405 U.S. 330 (1972).[55][56]


  • Washington, D.C. local elections, such as Mayor and Councilmen, restored after a 100-year gap in Georgetown, and a 190-year gap in the wider city, ending Congress's policy of local election disfranchisement started in 1801 in this former portion of Maryland—see: D.C. Home rule.






  • Texas repeals the lifelong prohibition against voters with felony convictions and institutes a five year waiting period after completing a sentence to vote.[60]


  • Texas changes the five year waiting period to two years for people with felony convictions.[60]





  • Texas ends the two year waiting period for people with felony convictions to restore voting rights.[57]


  • People in Utah with a felony conviction are prohibited from voting while serving their sentence. People with a felony conviction may vote after release from prison, if they were convicted in Utah. If they were convicted out of state, their rights are not restored due to the wording of the law.[60]




  • New Mexico ends lifetime disenfranchisement for people with a felony conviction.[57]


  • Iowa restores the voting rights of felons who completed their prison sentences.[57]
  • Nebraska ends lifetime disenfranchisement of people with felonies but adds a five-year waiting period.[60]


  • The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was extended for the fourth time by President George W. Bush, being the second extension of 25 years.[62]
  • Utah changes wording of their law and restores voting rights to all people who have completed their prison sentence for a felony.[60]
  • Rhode Island restores voting rights for people serving probation or parole for felonies.[57]


  • Florida restores voting rights for most non-violent people with felony convictions.[57]


  • Washington restores a person's right to vote if they have completed their sentences for a felony conviction.[63]


Voting on election day in Des Moines, Iowa, 2010


  • Voting rights in New Jersey are restored to individuals serving probation and parole for felonies.[57]


  • Florida changes their felony voting rules; felons must wait five years after sentencing and apply for their right to vote again.[57]
  • Iowa reverses their rule allowing felons who have completed their sentences to vote.[57]
  • Texas passes one of the most restrictive voter ID laws in the country, but it is blocked by the courts.[28]


  • Supreme Court ruled in the 5–4 Shelby County v. Holder decision that Section 4(b) of the Voting Rights Act is unconstitutional. Section 4(b) stated that if states or local governments want to change their voting laws, they must appeal to the Attorney General.[64]
  • Delaware waives the five-year waiting period for voters with a felony conviction.[63]
  • North Dakota passes House Bill 1332 which was targeted at restricting Native American voters. Any voter without a permanent address is no longer eligible to vote.[65]


  • California allows prisoners in county jail to vote.[63]
  • Maryland restores voting rights to felons after they have served their term in prison.[63]


  • Alabama publishes a list of crimes that can lead to disqualification of the right to vote.[63]
  • Wyoming restores the voting rights of non-violent felons.[63]


  • The residential address law in North Dakota is upheld by the United States Supreme Court.[26]
  • Florida voting rights for people with a felony conviction is restored with some additional requirements needed in some cases.[63]
  • People with a felony conviction in Louisiana who have not been incarcerated for five years (inclusive of probation or parole) are able to vote.[57]
  • New York allows parolees to vote.[63]


  • People convicted of a felony may vote in Nevada after release from prison.[63]
  • Citizens on parole may vote in Colorado.[63]
  • People convicted of a felony may vote in Oklahoma after serving their full sentence, including parole and other types of probation.[63]



  • California restores voting rights to citizens serving parole.[63]
  • Washington, D.C. passes a law to allow incarcerated felons to vote.[63]
  • People with a felony conviction have their right to vote in Iowa restored with some restrictions and each potential voter must have completed their sentence.[63]
  • People with a felony conviction in New Jersey can vote after release from prison; citizens on parole or probation can also vote.[63]
  • North Dakota reaches an agreement with the Spirit Lake Nation and the Standing Rock Sioux to recognize tribal address as valid for voting purposes.[66]


  • The Supreme Court's ruling on Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee removes most remaining sections of the Voting Rights Act, except for redistricting rules and bans of egregious discrimination.[67][68]
  • Texas enacts sweeping legislation that further tightens state election laws and constrains local control of elections by limiting counties’ ability to expand voting options.[69]

See also


  1. ^ a b Klinghoffer, Judith Apter; Elkis, Lois (1992). "'The Petticoat Electors': Women's Suffrage in New Jersey, 1776-1807". Journal of the Early Republic. 12 (2): 159–193. doi:10.2307/3124150. JSTOR 3124150.
  2. ^ a b c Engerman & Sokoloff 2005, p. 35.
  3. ^ "naturalization laws 1790-1795". Retrieved 2018-08-17.
  4. ^ a b Engerman & Sokoloff 2005, p. 28, 35.
  5. ^ Engerman & Sokoloff 2005, p. 11-12.
  6. ^ a b Steven Mintz (2004). "Winning the Vote: A History of Voting Rights". History Now. 1.
  7. ^ "The Second Constitution of New York, 1821" (PDF). Retrieved 3 February 2021.
  8. ^ Engerman & Sokoloff 2005, p. 14"Property- or tax-based qualifications were most strongly entrenched in the original thirteen states, and dramatic political battles took place at a series of prominent state constitutional conventions held during the late 1810s and 1820s."
  9. ^ Bichefsky, Raya. "LibGuides: Voting Resources: Voting in the United States: A Timeline". Pence Law Library Guides. Retrieved 2021-01-21.
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "Who got the right to vote when?". Al Jazeera. 18 August 2020. Retrieved 2021-01-20.
  11. ^ Pennsylvania. Constitutional Convention (1837-1838) (1837). Proceedings and debates of the Convention of the commonwealth of Pennsylvania, to propose amendments to the constitution, [microform] : commenced at Harrisburg, on the second day of May, 1837. Harvard University. Harrisburg : Packer, Barrett and Parke.((cite book)): CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  12. ^ a b c "National Suffrage Timeline". Rochester Regional Library Council. Retrieved 2021-01-21.
  13. ^ William G. Shade, "The Second Party System". in Paul Kleppner, et al. Evolution of American Electoral Systems (1983) pp 77-111
  14. ^ a b Warnes, Kathy. "Rebellion, Murder, and Voting Rights in Rhode Island". History? Because it's Here!. Retrieved 2021-01-20.
  15. ^ Engerman & Sokoloff 2005, p. 16, 35.
  16. ^ a b Schultz, Jeffrey D.; Aoki, Andrew L.; Haynie, Kerry L.; McCulloch, Anne M. (2000). Encyclopedia of Minorities in American Politics: Hispanic Americans and Native Americans. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 528. ISBN 978-1-57356-149-5.
  17. ^ a b Scher, Richard K. (2015-03-04). The Politics of Disenfranchisement: Why is it So Hard to Vote in America?. Routledge. p. 13. ISBN 978-1-317-45536-3.
  18. ^ Schwartz, Diane (26 February 2018). "The Untold Story of Black Suffrage in Wisconsin". Madison365. Retrieved 2021-01-19.
  19. ^ Noun, Louise R. (1969). Strong-Minded Women: The Emergence of the Woman Suffrage Movement in Iowa. Ames, Iowa: The Iowa State University PRess. pp. 84–85. ISBN 0813816025.
  20. ^ a b c d e "A History of the American Suffragist Movement". The Moschovitis Group. Archived from the original on 8 January 2014. Retrieved 20 January 2021.
  21. ^ "US Suffrage Movement Timeline, 1792 to present". Anthony Center for Women's Leadership at the University of Rochester. Archived from the original on July 23, 2013. Retrieved 20 January 2021.
  22. ^ "Legal Case of Minor v. Happersett". History of U.S. Woman's Suffrage. National Women's History Museum. 30 September 2015. Retrieved 2021-01-20.
  23. ^ a b c d Tarter, Brent. "Poll Tax". Encyclopedia Virginia. Retrieved 2021-01-21.
  24. ^ a b c "The History of Voting and Elections in Washington State". Washington Secretary of State. Retrieved 20 January 2021.
  25. ^ a b c d e f g h "The Woman Suffrage Timeline". The Liz Library. Retrieved January 20, 2021.
  26. ^ a b Contreras, Russell (2018-11-01). "AP Explains: How the Native American vote evolved". AP NEWS. Retrieved 2021-01-20.
  27. ^ "Constitution of the State of Utah (Article IV Section 1)". 1896-01-04.
  28. ^ a b c "Voting Rights Act: Major Dates in History". American Civil Liberties Union. Retrieved 2021-01-21.
  29. ^ Harper 1922, p. 715-716.
  30. ^ a b "AP Tests: AP Test Prep: The Expansion of Suffrage". CliffsNotes. 10 January 2010. Archived from the original on 10 January 2010.((cite web)): CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  31. ^ "Alaska and the 19th Amendment". U.S. National Park Service. Retrieved 2021-01-20.
  32. ^ "Votes for Women! - The Battle Lost and Won - Page 2". Texas State Library | TSLAC. Retrieved 2020-08-15.
  33. ^ Easton 1983, p. 225.
  34. ^ a b c d e "Smith v. Allwright (1944) - White Primaries". The Texas Politics Project. Retrieved 2021-01-21.
  35. ^ Madsen, Deborah L., ed. (2015). The Routledge Companion to Native American Literature. Routledge. p. 168. ISBN 978-1-317-69319-2.
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  37. ^ "Today in History - June 2". Library of Congress.
  38. ^ a b Bruyneel, Kevin (April 1, 2004). "Challenging American Boundaries: Indigenous People and the "Gift" of U.S. Citizenship". Studies in American Political Development. 18 (1): 30–43. doi:10.1017/S0898588X04000021. S2CID 145698348 – via Cambridge University Press.
  39. ^ Schroedel & Aslanian 2015, p. 311.
  40. ^ Cole 1992, p. 433.
  41. ^ Carney, Amy. "Alaska's Suffrage Star: Home". Alaska Libraries, Archives, Museums. Retrieved 2020-11-12.
  42. ^ Peterson, Helen L. (1957). "American Indian Political Participation". The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science. 311: 116–126. doi:10.1177/000271625731100113. S2CID 144617127.
  43. ^ "Lucy Nicolar Goes Far From a Maine Indian Reservation - And Then Returns". New England Historical Society. 2014-01-12. Retrieved 2020-12-29.
  44. ^ Maine State Museum (2019). "Maine Suffrage Who's Who" (PDF). Women's Long Road: 10.
  45. ^ Sisk, Amy R. (30 November 2019). "A century of suffrage: ND ratified 19th Amendment 100 years ago, granting women full voting rights". Bismarck Tribune. Retrieved 2021-04-20.
  46. ^ a b Christen 2019, p. 98.
  47. ^ "Baker v. Carr". Oyez. Retrieved 2019-09-24.
  48. ^ "Wesberry v. Sanders". Oyez. Retrieved 2019-09-24.
  49. ^ "One Person, One Vote | The Constitution Project". Retrieved 2019-09-24.
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  54. ^ Milutin Tomanović, ed. (1972). Hronika međunarodnih događaja 1971 [The Chronicle of International Events in 1971] (in Serbo-Croatian). Belgrade: Institute of International Politics and Economics. p. 2608.
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  59. ^ Tucker, Landreth & Lynch 2017, p. 336.
  60. ^ a b c d e f McLeod, Morgan (17 October 2018). "Expanding the Vote: Two Decades of Felony Disenfranchisement Reforms". The Sentencing Project. Retrieved 2021-01-20.
  61. ^ Registration and Voting by Absent Uniformed Services Voters and Overseas Voters in Elections for Federal Office, U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, Voting Section, archived from the original on 2001-04-20, retrieved 2007-01-05
  62. ^ "Voting Rights Act Reauthorization 2006 | NAACP LDF". Retrieved 2016-12-07.
  63. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o "Felon Voting Rights". National Conference of State Legislatures. January 4, 2016. Retrieved March 13, 2016.
  64. ^ Schwartz, John. "A Guide to the Supreme Court Decision on the Voting Rights Act". The New York Times. Retrieved 2016-12-07.
  65. ^ Bright, Alexander Douglas (Spring 2020). "Pueblo Sovereignty and Voting Rights: Miguel Trujillo and a New Tactic for Self Determination". Old Dominion University History Theses and Dissertations: 62–63.
  66. ^ "North Dakota Native Voters Protected". Native American Rights Fund. 2020-04-24. Retrieved 2021-04-19.
  67. ^ "The Supreme Court Deals A New Blow To Voting Rights, Upholding Arizona Restrictions". Retrieved 2021-07-11.
  68. ^ "Brnovich, Attorney General of Arizona, et al. v. Democratic National Committee et al" (PDF). July 1, 2021.
  69. ^ Ura, Alexa (7 September 2021). "Gov. Greg Abbott signs Texas voting bill into law, overcoming Democratic quorum breaks". Texas Tribune. Retrieved 7 September 2021.


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Timeline of voting rights in the United States
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