America has a rich history when it comes to presidential elections. George Washington was the first United States president to be elected after the founding fathers created a system that granted the people the power and responsibility to select their leader. At the first election in 1789, only white men who owned property could vote.
The 15th Amendment
Formally adopted on March 30, 1870, the 15th Amendment to the United States Constitution granted African American men the right to vote. In addition to granting black men the right to vote, it prevented states from denying any person the right to vote based on race.
It took a decade after the passing of this amendment before African American men were actually granted the opportunity to cast their ballot and use their right to vote. Several discriminatory practices were often used to prevent blacks from exercising this right, like poll taxes and literacy tests.
August 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed into law the Voting Rights Act that was aimed at overcoming the legal barriers at local and state levels that denied African American citizens the right to vote. Among other things, it banned the use of literacy tests and poll taxes in federal elections.
The 19th Amendment
Women weren’t granted the right to vote until 1919. The 19th Amendment was ratified on August 18, 1920. This right is known as woman suffrage. When the United States was founded, women did not share many of the same rights as men. In 1848, the first movement for women’s rights on the national level was launched. Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott held a national convention in Seneca Falls, NY. The demand for the right to vote became the centerpiece of the women’s rights movement after the convention.
A 70-year battle ensured. On May 21, 1919, U.S. Representative James R. Mann proposed the House resolution to approve the amendment granting women the right to vote. It passed in the House. On June 4, 1919, the Senate also passed the 19th Amendment, and it was sent to the states for ratification. Tennessee tipped the scales for women’s suffrage by providing the last needed vote for ratification. It wasn’t until 60 years later on March 22, 1984, that the last remaining state, Mississippi, finally ratified.
The 26th Amendment
It wasn’t until 1971 that the voting age was officially loved to 18 years old. Before, it was set at 21 years of age. The debate over lowering the voting age began during World War II. It greatly intensified with the Vietnam War. Young men were being conscripted to fight a war but were denied the right to vote. In 1970, the court ruled in Oregon v. Mitchell that Congress had the right to regulate the minimum age to vote in federal elections but not state or local elections.
It wasn’t until the following year, March 1971, that Congress finally passed the 26th Amendment. The states were quick to ratify. It was officially signed into law by Richard Nixon in July of the same year.
The Electoral College
The election of the United States President is actually an indirect election. Voters cast ballots for members of the US Electoral College called electors. The electors then cast their electoral votes as direct votes for the President. There are a total of 538 electoral votes. The candidate that receives at least 270 electoral votes, an absolute majority, wins the election. If no one receives an absolute majority, the House of Representatives chooses the President.
Presidential election years can present a heated time as citizens rally behind their candidate. Exercising your right to vote is a privilege not all people enjoy and something that citizens of the United States have passionately fought for over the years.
If presidential elections excite you, the election game by Redwerk might be just the game for you. The game is themed around the 2016 US presidential election between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Players are given the opportunity to choose their favorite candidate and fight for a win.
When the first US president was elected, not all American citizens had the right to vote. Our history is rife with battles fought for this sacred right. Games are even developed around the ensuing battles that are elections. When election time rolls around, remember your right to vote is not a privilege afforded everyone in the world. Every vote matters.