Mr. McKownGovernment4 December 2017Dawson MorelandHow We Got Our SayImagine living and working for your country just as hard and serving just as much of a purpose to the world as anyone else, but you have no say in any of the decisions that are made around you. That is how many Americans have lived in our very own country not too long ago. Before certain amendments to the constitution that allowed others to vote, only white men (who were well off to say the least) could vote or hold a significant position in the government. Any law that was made was only because a certain group of people were the ones who had any say. People who served a purpose to their community were terribly represented and amendment fifteen, nineteen, twenty-four, and twenty-six all were constructed to fix that blatant problem. Many people had to work extremely hard and sacrifice a lot to have them added. These amendments were definitely needed but were added far later than they really should have been. The first amendment that is going to be discussed is the fifteenth amendment. Before the fifteenth amendment the only people who have ever voted in the United States was white men who either had land, or for certain states could afford to pay the poll taxes. This amendment was ratified in eighteen seventy, the date that this amendment was ratified is very important because it was right after the civil war.  All the African-American Moreland 2slaves were freed and  then began looking to become functioning members of society.  They want to be equally represented and the United States government wants them to have a say in who is put into office. The United States government also gains a better image in the eyes of other countries by first freeing their slaves, then giving all of them the right to vote and have equal representation. The amendment says “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude”(U.S. Constitution, Amendment 15). The reconstruction was done by former abolitionists and radical republicans. African-Americans of the south still were not really given an equal say in their state and local government. Most southern states made it very hard for them to vote because they added literacy tests and poll taxes. Before nineteen sixty-five, less than fifty percent of African-Americans voted(Dr. Michelle Getchell). Most either did not have enough money to pay the tax, or enough knowledge to pass the difficult tests. Violence and intimidation was also used to ensure that the number of eligible black voters would be low and remain that way. Black people were able to achieve political positions in the government in the eighteen eighties but were forced out in the nineties due to white supremacy. In the following years Jim Crow laws would make sure that political offices would belong to white people(D.C. National Archives). Black people would not be be equally represented until nineteen sixty-five. The voting rights act of nineteen sixty-five made it so that states could not keep people of color from voting. This act made the fifteenth amendment significantly more effective in actually Moreland 3performing the task it was designed to do(Dr. Michelle Getchell). President Lyndon B. Johnson sent the bill to congress and he then signed it August sixth(D.C. National Archives). Johnson stated “All citizens must have the privileges of citizenship regardless of race.” The act specifically attacked the high poll taxes and difficult literacy tests that black people had to take. The fifteenth amendment did very little for minorities of the south. It was the voting rights act of nineteen sixty-five that really made the fifteenth amendment competent. An amendment that was much more effective when ratified was the nineteenth amendment. Before the amendment women had just about no say in any of the decisions that were made in their lives. Many men saw women as mentally inferior and therefore not smart enough to make any decision more important than what they should make for dinner. Most women were getting fed up with not being allowed to make their own decisions and having to live as second class citizens. That then lead to activist groups being formed. One of the leading groups of the women’s suffrage movement was the National Woman Suffrage Association or the NWSA. The NWSA was founded by Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton in the year eighteen sixty-nine(History.com, 2010). The group she formed became the most effective activist group and she became the face of the entire movement. They created a slogan that said “Men, their rights and nothing more; women, their rights and nothing less”(NWSA). The NWSA wanted the right to vote and other certain rights to make them equal to men. Other groups like the American Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA) who was founded in eighteen seventy by Lucy Stone and her husband were focused almost exclusively on the right to vote. The AWSA was known for being the more conservative Moreland 4group out of the groups fighting for the right to vote. At the time the AWSA was more popular because they had what people thought were more achievable goals. They also had men play a large role in their group and decision making, unlike the NWSA who only wanted woman in their group(Encyclopedia Britannia, June 12, 2015).The nineteenth amendment gave all female American citizens the right to vote. This amendment is probably the most popular and well known that I will discuss. It was ratified in August of nineteen twenty. The movement of women’s suffrage began around eighteen thirty and then eventually became involved in the movement and war to abolish slavery(Scholastic). It never even made it to congress until the year eighteen seventy-eight. The nineteenth amendment was added under the presidency of Woodrow Wilson. Wilson was said to not be particularly fond of the women’s suffrage movement, but later on he began to fight and advocate for them. He joined their cause when he learned that detained protestors were being force fed because of their hunger strikes. Wilson may have also decided to join the cause because of his daughter who was a leading suffragist(GWLI Staff, June 4 2013). Without the support of Wilson, women would not have been able to earn their voting rights.Today, the idea of women not having the right to vote is incomprehensible. Woman have come so far as in the role they now play in politics. Just last year Hillary Clinton was the Democratic candidate for our very President. She ended up losing the election by a narrow margin showing  you just how far we have come in the last one hundred years. In less than one decade, women earn the right to legally vote and then a woman is almost Moreland 5elected president. Women should have been eligible to choose their leader since America became an independent country, they have always been just as intelligent as men and did not just automatically become smarter in the nineteen twenties. When voters had to pay a tax, African-Americans were not the only ones affected. Basically anyone who did not have money to spare or were forced to stick to a strict budget often did not show up to the voting polls. It kept people with money in power because they were the only ones who could do anything for their cause. The whole reason poll tax was created was to transfer from white men who had land to white men who could afford to pay the tax. By the mid nineteen hundreds, almost all the states but a few southern states had already dismantled the poll tax. States like Virginia, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, and Texas all still taxed voters(Constitution Laws). Those states who were using it directly harmed the influence of the black community.The amendment was ratified in nineteen sixty-four by Lyndon B. Johnson(Constitution). The main reason was to help end segregation and Jim Crow laws down south. African-American people were finally able to vote without having to pay extra money. The other main reason was to give the poor man a voice in his country. The amendment encourages people to vote and makes it so the country can truly be lead by and for the people. The supreme court said that it was unconstitutional and violated certain clauses of the fourteenth amendment to tax voters(U.S. Constitution online). The amendment says “The right of citizens of the United States to vote in any primary or other Moreland 6election….shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any State by reason of failure to pay any poll tax or other tax”(U.S. Constitution, Amendment 24). Since the twenty-fourth amendment, many African-American people have held prestigious political positions and the government is not being ran by who has the most cash in their wallet. Voting polls now have much higher attendance percentages than they did with the unnecessary tax. Without the amendment the United States would never have had its first black president. It never should have cost money to vote because it contradicts the true meaning of a democracy, every country is going to have poor people and if they are not involved how much of a democracy is your country?Surprising enough, the voting age has not always been eighteen. Before the twenty-sixth amendment, men and women of the United States could not vote until they turned twenty-one. The fight for the voting age to be lowered started back in the nineteen forties during world war two. Franklin D. Roosevelt made the minimum fighting age eighteen and some were unhappy that they could fight for their country but they could not vote. It sparked the slogan “Old enough to vote, old enough to fight.” Even more people began to join the movement in the nineteen sixties due to the horrendously unpopular war in Vietnam. Men were old enough to be drafted and sent straight to South East Asia, so many thought they should at least be allowed to vote(History 2010).  Georgia was originally the first state to lower the voting age to eighteen. Then in the year nineteen seventy-one, the twenty sixth amendment was ratified with Richard Nixon as the president. Originally eighteen year olds could only vote for President and Vice President Moreland 7but were not allowed to vote on state and local issues. The senate voted unanimously for the amendment and it was ratified in two months, that is the shortest amount of time for any amendment to be ratified(History 2010).. After the amendment passed, the president said “The reason I believe that your generation, the 11 million new voters, will do so much for America at home is that you will infuse into this nation some idealism, some courage, some stamina, some high moral purpose, that this country always needs.”(Richard Nixon) The twenty sixth amendment was very popular and well liked amendment.After the amendment passed, the amount of young voters started to decline; but in recent elections the numbers have began to pick up again. Many eighteen to twenty year olds exercise their right to vote and make an impact on their country.  If an amendment is passed unanimously and takes almost no time to be added to the states, it obviously should have been added much sooner. If you are old enough to put your life on the line for your country, you should be given the right to vote. Eighteen year olds should have been allowed to vote the day they were required to be drafted into the military.All of these amendments were stalled far longer than they should have. All citizens should always be able to vote and choose how they are governed. I think it took so long for these amendments to be added because the men in charge feared giving certain minorities the right to vote. They thought it would force them and their families out of power. I do not really blame them because it is human nature to try and hold onto as much power as long as you can. That still does not make it right but once someone tastes power they can have an overwhelming hunger for power.Moreland 8″AWSA” Encyclopedia Britannia, June 12, 2015https://www.britannica.com/topic/American-Woman-Suffrage-Association”Constitution online-Amendment 24″U.S. Constitution onlinehttps://www.usconstitution.net/xconst_Am24.htmlDr. Michelle Getchell,”The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965″ Khan Academyhttps://www.khanacademy.org/humanities/ap-us-history/period-8/apush-civil-rights-movement/a/the-civil-rights-act-of-1964-and-the-voting-rights-act-of-1965GWLI Staff”Woodrow Wilson and the women’s suffrage movement: A reflection” Wilson Center, June 4, 2013https://www.wilsoncenter.org/article/woodrow-wilson-and-the-womens-suffrage-movement-reflection”Primary documents in American history” 15th amendment to the constitution,October 30, 2017https://www.loc.gov/rr/program/bib/ourdocs/15thamendment.htmlRichard H. Pildes and Bradley A. Smith “The 15th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution” National constitution centerhttps://constitutioncenter.org/interactive-constitution/amendments/amendment-xv”15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: Voting Rights (1870)” D.C. National Archiveshttps://www.ourdocuments.gov/doc.php?flash=false=44″19th Amendment” History.com, 2010http://www.history.com/topics/womens-history/19th-amendment”19th Amendment, women’s suffrage” Scholastic.comhttp://teacher.scholastic.com/activities/suffrage/history2.htm”24th Amendment – constitution” Constitution https://constitution.laws.com/24th-amendment”The 26th Amendment” History.com, 2010http://www.history.com/topics/the-26th-amendment

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