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The original formation of the right to vote within the Constitution was motivated by a worry as to who would maintain control within the political sphere. The framers of the Constitution realized that the right to vote is a fundamental component of democracy and liberty. To this extent, they did not want to fully restrict voting rights of minority groups, however, they also worried that non-property owners could construct a majority over property owners if they were to allow voting rights to be expanded to all. Because of this dilemma, the framers originally gave states the power to enact their own voter restrictions (The Library of Congress).
After years of discrimination with regard to suffrage, the Selma to Mongomery March took place. Many Americans were angry with the little weight the 15th Amendment actually held in the South. On March 7th, 1965, more than 600 Americans marched through Selma Alabama, led by John Lewis, a political activist. They marched to peacefully protest the ongoing racial discrimination. The protesters faced violence from state troopers, and many were unrightfully arrested. The sight of unwarranted and brutal violence ultimately motivated many to fight for racial equality and more equitable voting rights. Martin Luther King, Jr. was among those who were arrested. He had helped to rally the state for change when he came to the city to speak in January and expressed his support for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee who worked to register black voters (A&E Television Networks, 2009). Evidently, the call for racial equality played a large role in the recognition of the importance of voting rights.
Equally important were the forces that expanded voting rights for women. Beginning in 1840, when Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton were barred from a conference in London because they were female, they began to fight for women's rights. In 1948, they established the United State’s first women’s rights convention in order to express their grievances, specifically with women’s lack of voting rights. This led to the formation of the National Suffrage Association by Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton where they argued for a universal suffrage amendment which would include women. Following was the creation of the American Woman Suffrage Association, which operated on a more moderate platform and even succeeded to win suffrage for women in some states, as they operated on a state by state basis. This led to the establishment of the National American Woman Suffrage Association, an integration of the two previous associations. After many protests and amendment proposals from 1878 until 1919, women were finally granted the right to vote by the 19th Amendment (The Library of Congress).
History.com Editors. “Voting Rights Act of 1965.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 9 Nov. 2009, www.history.com/topics/black-history/voting-rights-act.
The Founders and the Vote : The Right to Vote : Elections : Classroom Materials at the Library of Congress : Library of Congress. The Library of Congress. (n.d.). https://www.loc.gov/classroom-materials/elections/right-to-vote/the-founders-and-the-vote/.
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