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The Constitution and Suffrage

Jefferson and the Election of 1800

Contested Elections and the
    Electoral College

America at Mid-Century

Civil War

Reconstruction

Women’s Suffrage

Women Get the Vote

Jim Crow

A New Deal for Workers

Big City Voting

Native Americans and Chinese
    Get the Vote

Civil Rights

The Promised Land

Puerto Rican Voters

New Voices

Mexican American Voters



Milestones in Voting History







July 2, 1776

The New Jersey state constitution allows “all inhabitants . . . who are worth fifty pounds” to vote, including women and people of color. In 1807 the requirement is rewritten to specify only white men.

August 6, 1787

The Constitutional Convention finishes writing the U.S. Constitution.

February 4, 1789

George Washington is elected first president of the United States by the Electoral College, with all sixty-nine electoral votes.

January 1, 1790

Ten states have property requirements for voting (Connecticut, Delaware, Rhode Island, Virginia, Maryland, New Jersey, North Carolina, New York, Massachusetts, and South Carolina).





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Thomas Nast Attack on ballot stuffing by Boss Tweed's Tammany Hall (circa 1870). The caption reads As Long as I count the Votes, what are you going to do about it? say?.

Suffragist Mrs. Suffern, holding sign, 1914.

Meeting of the League of Women Voters, 1920

Dwight D. Eisenhower at a Campaign rally in Chicago, 1952.


December 3, 1800

Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr tie for president in the Electoral College. With no provisions existing for this situation, the House of Representatives votes for the president, electing Jefferson on February 17, 1801.

June 15, 1804

The Twelfth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is ratified, requiring separate Electoral College voting for president and vice president, and reducing from five to three the number of candidates from which the Electoral College can choose.



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November 10, 1821

New York State ratifies its second constitution. Property requirements are dropped for whites, but “men of color” must have for one year “seized and possessed” a freehold over the value of $250.



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July 19-21, 1848

The first Woman’s Rights Convention is held in Seneca Falls, New York. The goal of women’s suffrage is first expressed in Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s Declaration of Sentiments, basing its text on the Declaration of Independence.

March 6 1857

Dred Scott v. Sanford: The U.S. Supreme Court rules that Dred Scott, a slave brought to a free state by his master, remain a slave.



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September 22, 1862

Abraham Lincoln, as commander-in-chief, issues the Emancipation Proclamation.

December 6, 1865

The Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is ratified, abolishing slavery in the United States.

April 9, 1866

The Civil Rights Act of 1866 is passed, declaring that all persons born in the United States are now citizens, without regard to race, color, or previous condition of servitude.

March 23, 1867

The Reconstruction Act of 1867 is passed, dividing former Confederate States into five military districts which would not be readmitted into the Union until they a) enacted state constitutions with African Americans given the right to vote and b) ratified the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

July 9, 1868

The Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is ratified, establishing citizenship and ensuring equal protection under the law.

May 22, 1869

National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA) is formed in New York City with Elizabeth Cady Stanton as its first president.

May 27, 1869

The American Woman Suffrage Association is formed in Boston by Lucy Stone, Henry Blackwell, and Julia Ward Howe. The AWSA and the NWSA join in 1890.

February 3, 1870

The Fifteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is ratified, declaring that citizens cannot be denied the right to vote based on “race, color, or previous condition of servitude.”

February 25, 1870

Mississippi Republican Hiram Revels becomes the first African American to be elected a U. S. Senator.

February 28, 1871

The Enforcement Act is passed, providing criminal penalties for interfering with suffrage under the Fifteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

November 5, 1872

Susan B. Anthony and eleven other women are arrested in Rochester, New York, for voting in the presidential election.

May 10, 1872

Victoria Woodhull becomes the first woman to run for president.

March 1, 1875

The Civil Rights Act is approved by the U. S. Congress. It banned racial discrimination in hotels, theaters, public transportation, and jury selection. The Act is nullified by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1883.

March 5, 1875

Mississippi Republican Blanche K. Bruce, son of a slave mother and a white planter, becomes the first African American elected to the U. S. Senate to serve a full term, 1875 to 1881.

March 2, 1877

The Electoral College declares Republican Rutherford B. Hayes the President of the United States over Democrat Samuel Tilden, thus deciding the 1876 election.



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May 6, 1882

First Chinese Exclusion Act, which barred Chinese laborers from entering the United States, restricted the number and type of other Chinese from entering the country, and barred Chinese immigrants from becoming citizens through naturalization. It was renewed on May 5, 1892, and April 29, 1902.

November 3, 1884

The U. S. Supreme Court rules in Elk v. Wilkins that Native Americans, although born in the United States, were not wholly subject to the jurisdiction of the United States government, and therefore were not protected by the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

April 4, 1887

Susanna Medora Salter is the first woman elected mayor of a town in the United States-Argonia, Kansas.

July 10, 1890

Wyoming becomes the first state to grant women full suffrage rights.

April 12, 1892

The Meyers Voting Machine, the first mechanical-lever voting machine, is introduced in elections at Lockport, New York. The machine was designed to prevent voter fraud.





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F.D.R. signs labor's Magna Charta by John Z. Gelsavage, 1935. The Wagner Act, signed in 1935 by President Franklin Roosevelt, empowered workers to orginize unions.

A voter registration drive of the New York City Central Labor Council, 1963.

Dr. Seuss's critique of Tammany Hall political corruption, November 1941.

John F. Kennedy campaigning on Long Island, New York, 1960.

May 8, 1906

The Burke Act is passed by the U. S. Congress, granting citizenship to Native Americans who were allotted land through the Dawes Act.

March 13, 1913

The North American Women Suffrage Association leads the Women’s Suffrage Parade in Washington, D. C. Over 6,000 participate.

April 8, 1913

The Seventeenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is ratified, setting the number of Senators of the U. S. Senate at two from each state, elected by popular vote instead of selected by state legislatures.

October 23, 1915

Twenty-five thousand women march in New York City for the right to vote.

November 7, 1916

Jeannette Rankin, Republican-Montana, is the first woman elected to Congress.

January 10, 1917

Alice Paul and the National Woman’s Party begin picketing the White House. Picketing would end in November 1917 after New York State granted women full suffrage rights.

November 6, 1917

North Dakota, Ohio, Indiana, Rhode Island, Nebraska, Michigan, New York, and Arkansas all grant women suffrage.

November 4, 1919

New York State voters pass an amendment to the state constitution allowing for absentee voting.



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February 14-16, 1920

League of Women Voters is founded, with Maud Wood Park elected as president.

August 19, 1920

The Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is ratified, guaranteeing suffrage for women.

November 13, 1922

Supreme Court rules, in Takao Ozawa v. United States, that people of Japanese heritage are not eligible to become naturalized citizens.

June 2, 1924

The Snyder Act, or Indian Citizenship Act, grants Native Americans the full rights of citizenship of the United States without having to give up their tribal affiliations. However, many western states restrict voting by Native Americans.

November 4, 1924

Nellie Tayloe Ross of Wyoming and Miriam A. “Ma” Ferguson of Texas, are the first women elected as state governors.

July 12, 1932

Hattie Wyatt Caraway of Arkansas becomes the first woman elected to the U.S. Senate in a special election to succeed her deceased husband.

January 1, 1938

Reform New York City Charter goes into effect, abolishing the Board of Aldermen and establishing the City Council.



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December 17, 1943

Chinese Exclusion Act is repealed, making people of Chinese ancestry eligible for U.S. citizenship.

June 30, 1952

Walter-McCarran Act grants all people of Asian ancestry the right to become citizens. However, the act sets restrictions on the number who can immigrate.

December 31, 1953

Hulan Jack sworn in as Manhattan Borough President, the first African American to serve in that position.

November 7, 1956

Dalip Singh Saund, a Democrat from Riverside County, California, is the first South Asian to be elected to the U.S. Congress.

September 9, 1957

Civil Rights Act is passed, permitting the federal government to sue on behalf of citizens and creating the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.

August 22, 1959

Republican Hiram Fong is the first person of Chinese descent to be elected to the U.S. Senate.



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April 16-17, 1960

Ella Baker, a longtime civil rights activist, invites students involved in sit-ins to a conference in Raleigh, NC. The group organizes the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).

March 29, 1961

The Twenty-third Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is ratified, granting Washington, D. C. residents the right to vote in U.S. Presidential elections for the first time.

June 12, 1963

Civil Rights leader Medgar Evers is assassinated by a white supremacist in Jackson, Mississippi.

August 28, 1963

March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom brings 250,000 Americans to the capital, setting in motion the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. gives his famous “I Have a Dream” speech.

January 23, 1964

The Twenty-fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is ratified, ensuring that the right to vote in all federal elections cannot be taken away by the United States or any states due to failure to pay any poll or other tax.

June 21, 1964

Mississippi Freedom Summer Volunteers Michael Schwerner, a Columbia University graduate student, James Chaney, a young Mississippi activist, and Andrew Goodman, a student at Queens College, CUNY are murdered by the Ku Klux Klan after investigating a church burning.

July 2, 1964

Major federal Omnibus Civil Rights Act is passed, making it illegal to discriminate based on race, religion, or gender in places and businesses that served the public.

August 22, 1964

Fannie Lou Hamer, Chairwoman of the integrated Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, gives testimony to the Democratic Party National Convention in Atlantic City, NJ. She unsuccessfully demanded that the MFDP be seated as the Mississippi delegation in place of the racist all-white delegation. She asked on national television: “Is this America, the land of the free and the home of the brave, where we are threatened daily because we want to live as decent human beings?”

March 7, 1965

The Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and SNCC lead a peaceful demonstration against unjust voter registration tests in Selma, Alabama. Under the direction of Governor George Wallace, law enforcement officers brutally attack hundreds of demonstrators with clubs and tear gas, in the infamous “Bloody Sunday.”

March 21-25, 1965

March on Montgomery, Alabama led by Martin Luther King, Jr. The four-day march ends with a rally outside the state capitol in Montgomery on March 25 attended by 25,000 people.

August 6, 1965

Voting Rights Act is passed, authorizing the U.S. Attorney-General to send federal examiners to register black voters, and suspend all literacy tests in states where less than 50% of the voting-age population had been registered or had voted in the 1964 election.

July 1, 1965

The Hart-Celler Immigration Act of 1965 is signed into law by President Johnson on Liberty Island, eliminating the racist quota system of the National Origins Act of 1924.

November 1, 1966

Edward W. Brooke of Massachusetts is elected the first African-American U.S. senator since Reconstruction.

November 1, 1966

Barbara Jordan becomes the first African American to serve in the Texas state senate since 1883. She later serves in the U.S. Congress.

July 6, 1967

Martin Luther King, Jr. announces the SCLC’s first voter registration drive in a northern city, Cleveland, Ohio.

November 7, 1967 Carl Stokes is elected mayor of Cleveland, Ohio, the first African American mayor of a major city.

November 5, 1968

Shirley Chisholm of Brooklyn, New York becomes the first black woman elected to the U.S. Congress.

April 30, 1969

Governor Nelson Rockefeller signs the New York City School Decentralization Bill into law, allowing for the election of Community School Boards by proportional representation and grants voting rights to non-citizens with children attending public schools.

September 28, 1970

Senior College XVII in Brooklyn named Medgar Evers College by the City University of New York to honor the slain civil rights activist.

November 3, 1970

The Bronx elects Herman Badillo the first Puerto Rican in the U.S. Congress.

March 23, 1971

The Twenty-sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution gives 18-20 year-olds the right to vote.

November 7, 1972

Elizabeth Holtzman of Brooklyn, NY becomes the youngest women elected to the U.S. Congress.

May 19, 1975

The New York State Legislature approves a bill that allows voter registration by mail.

August 6, 1975

The Voting Rights Act is amended to include rights for language minorities.



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September 28, 1984

The Voting Accessibility for the Elderly and the Handicapped Act requires “access for the elderly and handicapped individuals to registration facilities and polling places in federal elections.”

May 26, 1987

The CUNY Board of Trustees passes a resolution that all CUNY colleges must integrate voter registration into the student registration process.

July 26, 1990

Americans with Disabilities Act requires full access to voting facilities for the disabled.

October 6, 1990

The Christian Coalition of America is founded. The Coalition has registered and mobilized millions of voters.

November 3, 1992

Illinois elects Carol Moseley Braun the first African American woman in the U.S. Senate.

May 20, 1993

National Voter Registration Act is signed by President Bill Clinton, which allows voter registration at the same time as an application or renewal of a driver’s license or motor vehicle registration. In addition, it creates voter registration opportunities for those seeking services from all state offices and state-funded programs, and voter registration by mail.

January 1, 1994

Local Law 1993/094 goes into effect in New York City, establishing term limits for the mayor, city council members, public advocate, and comptroller.







 

Ella Baker, a leading figure in the civil rights movement and a founder of the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee, circa 1970's.

Voter Registration in Memphis, Tenn.,1961.

L to R:
Shierly Chisholm of Brooklyn, N.Y., the first African American woman elected to Congress, speaking before the Lenox Hill Democrats, circa 1972.

A voter registration drive in New York City's Chinatown.

November 7, 2000

The presidential election between Albert Gore and George W. Bush ends in deadlock when Florida’s deciding electoral votes are subject to an automatic recount.

December 8, 2000

Florida Supreme Court orders a recount of “undervotes” in all sixty-seven Florida counties. Bush appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court.

December 12, 2000

U.S. Supreme Court overturns the Florida Supreme Court decision, ending all recounts and establishing Bush’s victory in Florida and his election to the presidency.

October 29, 2002

President George W. Bush signs the Help America Vote Act (HAVA), which mandates funds to states to replace punch card voting systems; to establish the Election Assistance Commission to assist in the administration of Federal elections; and to provide assistance with the administration of certain Federal election laws and programs.

November 4, 2008

Barack Obama, U.S. Senator from Illinois, is elected the first African-American president of the United States.



Randi Weingarten, president of the United Federation of Teachers, U.F.T., a union long active in the voting and civil rights movements.

Robert F. Kennedy campaigning for president in Indiana, April 1968.

Dennis Rivera, president of Local 1199, S.E.I.U., a union that grew in the 1950 's and 1960's as part of the civil rights movement. It continues to be one of the most effective unions in registering its members and bringing them to the polls.

Brian M. McLaughlin, president of the New York City Central Labor Council (C.L.C.) and a member of the New York State Assembly. The C.L.C. is a key organization in mobilizing workers to register and vote.












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