Constitutional Amendments Affecting Voting Rights
• The 15th Amendment gave African-American men the right to vote in 1870. But many weren’t able to exercise this right. Some states used literacy tests and other barriers to make it harder to vote.
• The 19th Amendment, ratified in 1920, gave American women the right to vote.
• The 24th Amendment, ratified in 1964, eliminated poll taxes. The tax had been used in some states to keep African Americans from voting in federal elections.
• The 26th Amendment, ratified in 1971, lowered the voting age for all elections to 18.
Federal Voting Rights Laws
In addition to the Voting Rights Act, other federal laws passed over the years help protect Americans’ right to vote and make it easier for citizens to exercise that right:
• The Civil Rights Acts created some of the earliest federal protections against discrimination in voting. These protections were first outlined by the Civil Rights Act of 1870 and were later amended by the Civil Rights Acts of 1957, 1960 and 1964.The Voting Accessibility for the Elderly and Handicapped Act of 1984 required polling places to be accessible to people with disabilities.The Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA) of 1986 allowed members of the U.S. armed forces and overseas U.S. voters to register and vote by mail.The National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) of 1993 created new ways to register to vote. It also called for states to keep more accurate voter registration lists.The Help America Vote Act (HAVA) of 2002 authorized federal funds for elections. It also created the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC). The EAC helps states comply with HAVA to adopt minimum standards on voter education, registration, and ballots.The Military and Overseas Voting Empowerment (MOVE) Act of 2009 improved access to voting by military and overseas voters.