Why do voting rights matter?

Thesis Framework

“The history of voting rights is not yet over. Even today, debate continues…. History reminds us that even issues that seem settled sometimes reopen as subjects for debate…. In short, the debate about what it means to be a truly democratic society remains an ongoing, unfinished, story.” –Steven Mintz

Winning the Vote: A History of Voting Rights by Steven Mintz

  • Voting Rights on the Eve of the Revolution
  • The Impact of the Revolution
  • The Constitution and Voting Rights
  • Political Democratization
  • The Dorr War
  • The Civil War and Reconstruction
  • The Mississippi Plan
  • The Late Nineteenth Century
  • Women’s Suffrage
  • Declining Participation in Elections
  • Voting Rights for African Americans
  • Reducing the Voting Age
  • An Unfinished History

Image Gateway

George Caleb Bingham, “County Election” (1852) –Courtesy of St. Louis Museum of Art


Close Reading Exercise

Lincoln 1858


Woman's Suffrage




  • Suffrage –right to vote
  • Voting age population –Everyone 18 or older
  • Voting eligible population –Citizens 18 or older with no state-regulated voting restrictions (such as felony convictions or mental incapacities)
  • Registered voters –Eligible voters who have complied with state voter enrollment rules
    • Voter registration began in states during the 19th-century and became nearly universal in 20th
    • 1965 federal Voting Rights Act prohibited racial discrimination in the state voting process
    • 1993 federal “motor voter” law made it easier to register when receiving a state driver’s license
    • 2002 federal “Help America Vote Act” (HAVA) encouraged reforms in election administration
    • North Dakota is the only current state that does not require voter registration
  • Voter turnout –percentage of registered voters who participate in an election