The Expansion of the Franchise

The history of the amendments to the Constitution is, in one sense, a history of the expansion of certain political freedoms, including voting. At the Founding of the United States, many groups, including landless white men, slaves, free blacks, and women, could not vote. Much has changed since then. Almost a third of the amendments added to the Constitution after the Bill of Rights was ratified concern the ability to vote. The Fifteenth Amendment granted the right to vote to former slaves and people of color. The Nineteenth Amendment gave the vote to women, while the Twenty-third, Twenty-fourth, and Twenty-sixth amendments gave representation to the District of Columbia, forbid poll taxes, and lowered the voting age to 18, respectively. The passage of each of these Amendments reflected a shift towards making voting a right of all citizens, and indeed a fundamental part of citizenship. Today, controversies hinge on how best to balance voter access with safeguards to ensure that fraud doesn’t undermine the sanctity of every individual’s vote. In this lesson, students will focus on the Fifteenth, Nineteenth, Twenty-third, Twenty-fourth and Twenty-sixth Amendments. Read more now!

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