Abstract and Keywords
The development of the voting rights of three American groups—white males, women, and African Americans—is described in this essay in order to account for differences in the patterns of enfranchisement, disfranchisement, and, in the case of African Americans, reenfranchisement. Despite property qualifications, white male suffrage was much broader during the colonial and early national period than is often realized. Black suffrage has always been inextricably intertwined with partisan advantage. Women’s suffrage took so long to attain and the movement had to narrow its goals so much to win that female votes made little impact on politics until many years after 1920. The Voting Rights Act, which reenfranchised many African Americans after 1965, has always depended for its impact on Supreme Court decisions, which have passed through repeated cycles of support and restriction and have recently severely undermined protections, leaving minority voting rights at the mercy of “voter suppression” laws passed by their partisan enemies.
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