In the early days of our country, only four out of five adults were eligible to vote. Today, nearly every citizen who is 18 or older may vote.
Today, the number of eligible voters is greater than ever before. Over the years, several Amendments to the Constitution allowed groups that were previously excluded to be part of the democratic process.
The 14th Amendment was ratified in 1868. It gave any 21-year old male the right to vote, even if they didn't own property.
The 15th Amendment, ratified in 1870, said that the right to vote could not be denied "on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude." Now, men of color, as well as white men over 21, could vote.
The 19th Amendment which allowed women to vote for the first time was ratified in 1920.
In 1961, the 23rd Amendment gave citizens of the District of Columbia (Washington D.C.) the right to vote for electors in the presidential election.
Some states required that a poll tax be paid before a person could vote in a federal election. This kept many poor people and African Americans from voting. The 24th Amendment, ratified in 1964, eliminated the poll tax.
It wasn't until 1971 that citizens 18 years and older could vote. During the Vietnam War, many Americans complained that 18, 19, and 20-year olds were considered old enough to fight and die but not old enough to vote. The 26th Amendment lowered the voting age to 18 for national, state, and local elections.