What are the origins of America

The history of US suffrage

Suffrage for white Protestants only

The founding fathers of the US constitution - including Benjamin Franklin, George Washington and Alexander Hamilton - had clear ideas about who should have the right to vote on a matter of this magnitude. And they came closest to these ideas themselves.

Initially, only white men of Protestant faith from the middle and upper classes were eligible to vote. They had their own property and therefore had an interest in having it protected by the government. The same was true of their personal freedom.

These criteria shrunk the circle of those authorized to vote to a relatively manageable group, which made up only about ten percent of the total population. They didn't want to give so much responsibility to the rest of them. These included, for example, slaves and servants, Catholics and Jews, and women. They all had to submit to what others decided over their heads.

The electors had the final say

The makers of the constitution did not seem too convinced of the level of education and the integrity of those to whom they had given the right to vote. They built a safeguard mechanism into the electoral system so that the will of the people could not have a direct impact on the political power structures. Too much democracy should be stopped.

With the introduction of the "Electoral College" such potential efforts were successfully put to a stop. The electorate was able to vote on the electors in the "Electoral College", all of whom were educated and trustworthy persons in the sense of the constituent elite. These electors then had the final say on who they thought would be the right candidate, to whom they ultimately voted for the highest office of the state.

While the indirect voting process via the detour of the deputy electors has survived to the present day, the original right to vote has been expanded over time. Gradually, a total of 27 corresponding amendments were incorporated into the constitution. This allowed the number of eligible voters to grow slowly.

The first thing to do was say goodbye to denominational requirements. Belief no longer determines the right to choose. The question of property and property soon no longer played a role. By about 1830, all white-skinned adult men over the age of 25 were allowed to vote.

Often only on paper: the right to vote for former male slaves

After the American Civil War (1861-1865), slavery was abolished. As a result, the constitution was expanded in 1870 to include additional article 15, which now also granted former male slaves the right to vote - at least in theory.

In practice, however, it was the case in the southern states that, on the one hand, they were prevented from voting through the use of force. Local politicians also passed laws to keep black citizens from voting. In many places there was also a fee for voting that the poor below could not afford.

Other obstacles that were difficult to overcome were reading tests for blacks because they hardly had any schooling. It was not until 1964 that these forms of discrimination and exclusion were put to an end at the urging of the civil rights movement.

A long way to go: US women’s right to vote

Women also had to wait a long time for their unrestricted right to vote until they finally fought for it in 1920 - two years after Germany - by including Amendment 19 in the constitution.

The Vietnam War (1955–1975) also had an impact on US suffrage. The average age of US soldiers who went to war for their country at the time was 19 years. However, in order to have a say in who ruled the country for which they risked their lives, a minimum age of 21 years was required. That was reduced to 18 years in 1971.

Those who could be called up for military service must, on the other hand, also have the right to vote, according to the supporters of the relevant additional article 26 at the time.

Despite the above and other amendments to the constitution of 1787, voter turnout is relatively low compared to other countries in the western world. In presidential elections it is around 50 percent.

The main reason for this is that citizens have to register beforehand. Each state can design the registration process as it sees fit. As a result, certain population groups can be excluded from voting through the arbitrariness of the authorities.