On Tuesday, Nov. 8, the voters in Lassen County will cast their ballots. Nearly every resident over the age of 18 has the right to cast a ballot, but, believe it or not, it wasn’t always so in our great land. Every voter should recognize the struggle that led to his or her suffrage.
According to massvote.org, before the Constitution, the right to vote belonged almost exclusively to white, Protestant men who owned property — those perceived to have some skin in the game.
When the Constitution was ratified in 1788, slaves were counted as 3/5 of a person. The Naturalization Act of 1790 allows that only free white immigrants are eligible for naturalization. Those of Asian descent cannot be naturalized.
In 1828 Maryland became the last state to remove religious restrictions, and white men could not be denied the right to vote based upon their religion.
With the Dred Scott decision in 1857, the U.S. Supreme Court denies African Americans the right of citizenship, and therefore, the right to vote. This has been called the worst Supreme Court decision of all time.
The first Civil Rights Act in 1866 grants the right of citizenship to all persons born in the U.S.A., but not the right to vote.
The 15th Amendment is ratified in 1870, granting the right to vote to all male citizens, regardless of race, color or previous condition of servitude.”
In 1882 Congress passes the Chinese Exclusion Act, which limits Chinese immigration and excludes them from both citizenship and voting.
Poll taxes and literacy tests reduce African-American voting power in the South in 1889.
In 1890 the Indian Naturalization Act allows citizenship for Native Americans.
In 1896 Louisiana leads the way with a grandfather clause that no male citizen whose grandparent could not vote could cast a ballot.
In 1915 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled such grandfather clauses unconstitutional.
In 1920 the 19th Amendment grants citizens the right to vote regardless of gender.
In 1943 the Chinese Exclusion Act is repealed.
In 1960 The Civil Rights Act grants power over voting conditions to the justice department.
The passage of the 24th Amendment in 1964 prohibits poll taxes.
The Reynolds v. Sims case applies the doctrine of one person, one vote to all legislative bodies.
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 makes discrimination based on race, national origin, gender or religion unlawful.
The 26th Amendment, ratified in 1971, grants the right to vote to all citizens 18 and over.
This list is obviously and necessarily incomplete as Americans, especially those who weren’t wealthy white men, fought a long, hard battle to win the right to vote in the nation’s elections.
It was worth it. With nearly universal suffrage available to nearly everyone in our nation, the people truly do enjoy the opportunity to pick their leaders and direct the ship of state.
Each and every citizen who is eligible to vote needs to cast his or her ballot to make our system work as intended.
We hope you will do your part Tuesday, Nov. 8, and vote.