Voting in America

When the republic was established only men over the age of 21 could vote. With the ratification of the 15th amendment to the Constitution in 1870 denial of the right to vote on account of race, color, or condition of previous servitude was prohibited. Southern states attempted to circumvent that right by imposing poll taxes, literacy tests, etc. as bars to Black voting. Poll taxes were finally abolished with ratification of the 24th amendment in 1964.

Although formal campaigns for women's suffrage date back to the Senaca Falls meeting in 1848, the battle was finally won with ratification of the 19th amendment in 1920. The most recent extension of the right to vote occurred only in 1971 when ratification of the 26th amendment gave 18 year olds that right. Today there are only four requirements for voting in federal elections: citizenship: residence in the voting district, age 18 or above, and prior registration. The Help America Vote Act, HAVA, of 2002 requires a photo Id for all new voters who registered by mail. As of 2016 33 states require a photo ID. NJ does not do so. Prisoners are the only citizens denied the vote today.

A congressional resolution, the For the People Act of 2019, proposed expansion of voting rights, limits on partisan gerrymandering, strengthening of ethical standards for all three branches of government, limitation of private funding for candidates, improvement of cybersecurity of election systems, federal matching of small contributions for qualified candidates, and presentation of federal tax returns for preceding10 years by candidates for President and Vice president. It passed in the House but Senator Mitch McConnell has blocked its appearance on the Senate floor.

Election day was officially fixed in 1840 at the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November. Although that is the date for casting a ballot at one's polling place, early voting is permitted in 36 states (NJ is one of them). Mail-in and absentee ballots are available as are provisional ballots for individuals challenged at the poll.

The first political parties arose in 1787 when Federalists, who believed in strong government, battled the Anti-Federalists, who did not. The Anti-Federalists later became the Democratic Republican party. The two parties we know today were formed in the19th century. Along the way many issue-specific third parties, such as the Greenback Party or the Know Nothings (who fought immigration), came and went. Information concerning candidates and issues is generally provided in local newspapers. Online information is provided by the League of Women Voters on

Edith Neimark, member, LWV of the Princeton Area

published in Window on Windrows, October 2019