I am pleased to share with you the progress that has been made to the U S Constitution since the process started. Since the Constitution was first written, persons eligible to vote has widened with the introduction of various amendments. The Constitution has been amended 27 times over the past 200 years and these amendments included the voting laws and legal voting age. The electorate has changed over time to allow many other groups of people to have the right to vote. In 1787, the only eligible voters were white men over 21. However, the 15th Amendment approved in 1870 made it clear that no citizen would be barred from voting whatever his race, color or if a slave or not.
President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 freeing slaves and nine years later this amendment recognized all citizens as having the ability to vote. Later in 1920, the 19th Amendment gave women in the US the freedom to vote. This was supported by the progress that women were making as they were becoming better educated and so lawmakers were finally persuaded 72 years later that women were just as equal in intelligence as men. This was followed by another Amendment, the 26th passed in 1971 which gave young people between the ages of 18 to 20 the power to vote. Before only those over 21 could vote. Because this group could join the US armed forces, many thought it only fitting that they be included in the voting population. This argument was widely supported and so within four months the Amendment was ratified.
Over the centuries, many groups of people did not have the right to vote with the exception of one particular group, namely the property-owning white men. The steps to make amendments to include other groups were prompted with activists groups protesting and civil rights groups lobbying against voting laws they seen as discriminatory. The process began in the 1700s with meetings of abolitionists and pro women’s suffrage groups in the 1800s, which first met and organized the Seneca Falls. In 1856, all white men could vote and in 1868, the 14th Amendment granted African American citizenship but not the right to vote. In 1870, the 15h Amendment prevented the government from barring individuals from voting based on their race but his still did not prevent discrimination because in 1872, activists Sojourner Truth and Susan B. Anthony were denied the privilege of voting.
Wyoming led the way and became the first US state in 1890 to allow women the freedom to vote. In 1920, the 19th Amendment grants suffrage to women but not all Native American or Asian women. The 1924, Indian Citizen Act gave citizenship rights to Native Americans but not voting rights. The 23rd Amendment in 1961 gives DC residents the right to vote in presidential elections. In 1971, the voting age was lowered from 21 to 18 because of the controversy that 18 year olds can go to war but does not have the right the vote. The latest change is that occurred in 2000, however barred citizens of US territories such as Puerto Rico and Guam from participating in federal elections.
Changes made to the electorate to include all groups of eligible voters such as women, people of color, those who are 18 years and older and the poor is good for the democratic process because more people will a say in what affect them. And so in 2016 the number of persons being eligible to vote was almost 133 million. When citizens are empowered, they are in a position to elect local, state and national representatives who they believe are the right candidate for the job. Government leaders are held accountable for doing the right thing and are exposed and voted out should the people believe that their performance is unacceptable. The democratic process gives people the right to act or do something about what they think is in the best interest of their communities and country.
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