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History of American Voting

Page history last edited by Mark Reinert 14 years, 5 months ago


History of Voting in America

          America was founded on the principle that they (the colonists) were not given a vote in elections of Parliament.  King George repeatedly deprived colonists this right and in turn imposed many taxes and tariffs.  The Stamp Act of 1765, which was an import tax primarily on tea, is one example.  Another example is that the British Parliament also passed the Declaratory Tax which allowed parliament to bind the colonies through taxes and enforcement of parliamentary laws.  This action ultimately made the colonies subject to British authority in all ways, and the colonies would be ruled by England and Parliament without limitations.  Parliament was able to pass these taxes and tariffs without the American colonists having representation in parliament.  This led to the Boston Tea Party and The Boston Massacre.  Taxation without representation was a fundamental factor in the American Revolution. Since America was founded on the idea of equal representation it is therefore necessary to study how America was able to accomplish such a monumental task of assuring ALL people are equally represented as “We the People”.


The voting process in America has been an evolutionary process that began in America’s first settlement and continues today.   The very first English settlement in America, Jamestown, Virginia,   was the location of the very first election and votes that took place in what was to become the United States.  Upon landing on April 26, 1607, the colonists, prior to leaving England, nominated a council of seven men. After landing, the council would then elect a president. Eighteen days later Captain John Smith wrote back to England, “arriving at the place where wee are now seated, the Counsell was sworne, the President elected, which for that yeare was Maister Edw. Maria Wingfield"(Smith quoted in Crews).  Wingfield was elected by white men and represented less than six percent of the population.  This trend was to stay intact for over three hundred years.


Maister Edw. Maria Wingfield            Captain John Smith

          American colonists adopted voter qualifications from an English law that was instituted in 1430. A voter had to be a free, adult, male resident of his county, a member of the predominant religious group, and a freeholder. A freeholder owned land worth a certain amount of money. Colonists believed only freeholders should vote because only they had a permanent stake in the stability of society.  The Articles of the Confederation and the Constitution left the decision to limit voter qualifications to each individual state.  There are no specific guidelinesin the Constitution reguarding the individuals right to vote.  This allowed the states to omit many people from the voting process and thus gave rise to many movements to amend the constitution. The suffrage movements I am most interested in are; Black Suffrage and Women’s Suffrage because these are prime examples of how America was able to go from we the people to “We” the People.

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