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Constitution Day Library Guide

Consitution Day is celebrated on September 17 of each year.

Voting Rights

Voting Amendments

15th Amendment: Rights Not to Be Denied on Account of Race (1870)

SECTION. 1. 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. SECTION. 2. The Congress shall have the power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

Explanation -The Fourteenth Amendment did not explicitly grant the vote to African American men, although it decreased congressional representation for states that denied them the vote. Congress debated proposals for an amendment forbidding discrimination in voting based on race, and some Americans argued that women’s suffrage should also be included. But the amendment passed by Congress in 1869 and ratified in 1870 did not mention gender. As a result, it benefited only men until 1920, when the Nineteenth Amendment was ratified. And, for almost one hundred years after its ratification, the Fifteenth Amendment offered very little protection to African American men, either.


19th Amendment: Women's Right to Vote (1920)

SECTION. 1. The right of the citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.SECTION. 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

Explanation - In 1776, Abigail Adams warned her husband John to “remember the ladies” in the new system of laws that America would adopt. But although women played a critical role in America’s political life, they would not achieve the vote nationwide until almost 150 years later. In 1919, Congress finally approved the Nineteenth Amendment granting women suffrage throughout America. It was ratified in 1920, with Tennessee providing the necessary approval by one vote—after a mother lobbied her son in the state legislature on the amendment’s behalf.


26th Amendment: Right to Vote at Age 18 (1971)

SECTION. 1. The right of citizens of the United States, who are eighteen years of age or older, to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of age. SECTION. 2. The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

Explanation - With the escalation of the Vietnam War came increased pressure to lower the voting age from twenty-one to eighteen. Young people argued that if they were old enough to die for their country, they were also old enough to vote for the leaders who sent them to war. Consequently, Congress proposed the Twenty-sixth Amendment on March 23, 1971, and it was ratified by three-fourths of the states on July 1, 1971—the fastest ever.