As readers may have seen, we’ve been swept up with the elections here at TLH, and many of us are out volunteering and (wo)manning the polls today. As a Sikh-American woman and the daughter of Punjabi immigrants, this day is especially important to me — my right to vote is the product of over 100 years of activism to extend the rights of citizenship to all.
For those who are eligible and registered to vote in the U.S., I hope you’ll take today to cast your ballot. Whether you are voting for President, or for local initiative measures, or for state/local offices, you hav an exceptional opportunity to make your voice heard.
Below is some historical background on the extension of citizenship rights; hopefully it will get you pumped to participate:
- 1868: The Reconstruction Amendments eliminate non-criminal slavery (Amendment 13) and create a Constitutional right — in theory — for former-slaves and their descendants to fully participate in the post-Civil War U.S. (Amendment 15).
- 1913: The 17th Amendment allows for direct election of Senators.
- 1920: After nearly 70 years of lobbying, women win the right to vote.
- 1923: The U.S. Supreme Court revokes the citizenship rights of desi immigrants.
- 1940-47: Congress recognizes Native Americans as citizens, and over the next 7 years states incorporate them into their voting apparatus.
- 1946: Harry Truman gives back the right to naturalize, allowing desis and Filipinos to become citizens, once again.
- 1964: The 24th Amendment eliminates the poll tax (for federal elections).
- 1965: 100 years after Reconstruction, the Congress upholds everyone’s right to vote (including people of color and the poor) and criminalizes voting discrimination/disenfranchisement. It eliminates poll taxes (for state elections), literacy tests, and English-only language requirements.
- 1971: The voting age is lowered to 18.
- 2005: Indiana limits the right to vote to individuals with state/federal ID, only. The Supreme Court affirms their law.
For more information, here’s an annotated timeline of the development of voting and its slow inclusion of non-propertied and non-white individuals, and later women and immigrants.