Today is the day the political ads that have been plastered all over social media, the radio and the television are over. No more campaigners walking door to door.Phone calls asking for participation in polls or requesting money for party campaigns have come to an end.These each make “Political Season” a nightmare.However, do you know why it is such a big deal? This blog will not be discussing who to vote for or our political opinions.Instead, we would like to tell you the history of voting from the national level to the state level.
United States Voting History
The first Presidential Election took place in 1789 where George Washington essentially ran unopposed following the ratification of the United States Constitution in 1788.Prior to the Constitution, the Articles of Confederation was the rule of the land, which included a presiding officer and several executive departments, but no independent executive branch.Voting was only allowed by Electors who were white men who owned property in the thirteen states (Thirteen Colonies).
The second Presidential Election to take place was in 1792.This is the only time in history that the election wasn’t held four years after the previous election.
The 1796 Presidential Election was the first contested American election and the only one to elect a President and Vice President from opposing tickets.
The “Revolution of 1800” was the beginning of the Republican Party and the demise of the Federalist Party in the First Party System.No candidate received a majority of the electors, therefore House of Representatives elected Thomas Jefferson to be the third president.
Between 1800 to 1867, new states were created, wars took place, political parties were rapidly changing and political rights slowly improved.In 1867, the 1866 Civil Rights Act granted citizenship but not the right to vote, to all native-born Americans.
In 1869, Congress passed the Fifteenth Amendment giving African American men the right to vote.However, in 1896, Louisiana passed a “grandfather clause” to keep former slaves and their descendants from voting.Voting numbers dropped from 44.8% to only 4% four years later. Sadly, Mississippi, South Carolina, Alabama and Virginia also followed Louisiana’s lead by creating their own “grandfather clause”.
At this time, the Women’s Suffrage Movement was started with multiple organizations, one led by Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton with the other led by Lucy Stone.By 1890, these competing organizations merged creating the National American Woman Suffrage Association.Susan B. Anthony originally tried voting in 1872, but then was arrested for voting.These women were called Suffragists who would spend decades trying the amend the Constitution for Women’s Right To Vote.Finally in 1920, women were given the right to vote.
In 1940, only 3% of eligible African Americans in the south are registered to vote.Laws were created that to register to vote, an individual had to pass literacy tests and poll taxes. But in 1964, poll taxes became outlawed with the adoption of the 24th Amendment.
Only a year later in 1965, more than 500 non-violent Civil Rights marchers were attacked while attempting to march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama to demand the need for African American voting rights.This same year, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law.By the end of 1965, 250,000 new black voters were registered.Five years later in 1970, President Richard Nixon signed an extension of the Voting Rights Act.For several years after, presidents continue to sign extensions of the Voting Rights Act, to include people that were initially kept off the list and were unable to vote.
The Presidential Election of 2008 held several firsts.It was the first time a woman and a black man were running for President and a woman was running for Vice President.President Barack Obama won the presidency, making him the first black President.
Montana Voting History
At a local level, Montana is the home of the first woman to hold a federal office in the United States.Jeannette Rankin was elected in 1916 to the House of Representatives as a member of the Republican Party.Her background is extensive in Women’s Rights, having joined the Women’s Suffrage Movement in the early 1900’s and having been a part of Washington State becoming the fifth state in the Union to enfranchise women in the Constitution.Rankin paved the way for 307 women to serve in Congress; 261 in the House and 35 in the Senate, with 11 in both chambers.Today, she remains the only woman ever to be elected in Congress from Montana.Depending on what happens with today’s election, this can change.
GET OUT AND VOTE!
It is extremely important to vote at the national level as well as the local level.No matter where you are, city or state, local government policies and priorities have an immediate effect on those living within their jurisdictions.We can see almost immediately the effect of voting locally.Public issues such as school repairs, road maintenance and neighborhood improvements to state-wide funding can all make an impact when the voting public goes out and vote knowledgeably.