Who Got to Vote?

Voter disenfranchisement has a long and storied history in New York State and the nation as a whole. Under the state’s original constitution, less than 10 percent of the population could vote. Extending voting rights to all citizens has been a slow, often contentious process. Even today, although many of the legal barriers to voting have been removed, non-English speakers, the homeless, and the disabled still have trouble casting their ballots. 

1777   New York State’s first constitution establishes a tiered voting system based on wealth

 

Who votes:

  • Adult male citizens owning at least $100 worth of real property can vote in local elections and for New York State Assembly. Those owning $250 worth or more can also vote for State Senate, governor, and federal offices.

 

Who doesn’t:

  • Adult male citizens owning less than $100 worth of property including tenant farmers, urban renters, and the working poor of all races

  • Enslaved Blacks

  • Native Americans

  • Foreign nationals

  • Women

1821   New York’s constitution is amended to do away with property requirements for whites, while raising them for Blacks

Who votes:

  • Adult white male citizens who are up-to-date on their taxes and have not been convicted of a felony

  • Adult Black male citizens who own at least $250 worth of real estate and have free papers

 

Who doesn’t:

  • Enslaved Blacks

  • Free Blacks owning less than $250 of property

  • Native Americans

  • Foreign nationals

  • Women

  • Convicted felons

1826   New York’s constitution is amended to remove the tax requirements for voting

 

Who votes:

  • Adult white male citizens who have not been convicted of a felony

  • Adult Black male citizens who own at least $250 worth of real estate and have free papers

 

Who doesn’t:

  • Enslaved Blacks

  • Free Blacks owning less than $250 of property

  • Native Americans

  • Foreign nationals

  • Women

  • Convicted felons

1870   Passage of the 15th Amendment prevents states from discriminating against voters based on race

 

Who votes:

  • Adult male citizens of all races who have not been convicted of a felony

 

Who doesn’t:

  • Native Americans

  • Foreign nationals

  • Women

  • Convicted felons

1917   New York State’s constitution is amended to allow for women’s suffrage

 

Who votes:

  • Adult citizens of all races and both sexes who have not been convicted of a felony

 

Who doesn’t:

  • Native Americans

  • Foreign nationals

  • Convicted felons

Women’s Suffrage handbills produced by the Empire State Campaign Committee, 1915

1920   Passage of the 19th Amendment prevents states from discriminating against voters based on sex

 

Who votes:

  • Adult citizens of all races and both sexes who have not been convicted of a felony

 

Who doesn’t:

  • Native Americans

  • Foreign nationals

  • Convicted felons

1924   Congress passes the Snyder Act, declaring Native Americans to be US citizens

 

Who votes:

  • Adult citizens who have not been convicted of a felony, now including Native Americans

 

Who doesn’t:

  • Foreign nationals

  • Convicted felons

1965   Congress passes the Voting Rights Act, preventing various voter suppression tactics including poll taxes, literacy tests, etc.

 

Who votes:

  • Adult citizens who have not been convicted of a felony

 

Who doesn’t:

  • Foreign nationals

  • Convicted felons

1965   Congress passes the Immigration and Nationality Act, allowing Asian immigrants to become naturalized citizens

 

Who votes:

  • Adult citizens who have not been convicted of a felony, now including naturalized Asian Americans

 

Who doesn’t:

  • Foreign nationals

  • Convicted felons

1971   Passage of the 26th Amendment lowers the voting age from 21 to 18

 

Who votes:

  • Citizens over the age of 18 who have not been convicted of a felony

 

Who doesn’t:

  • Foreign nationals

  • Convicted felons

2018   Governor Cuomo issues executive order granting paroled felons the right to vote in New York State

 

Who votes:

  • Adult citizens who have never been convicted of a felony and felons who have served their sentences and been paroled

 

Who doesn’t:

  • Foreign nationals

  • Convicted felons still serving their sentences