Thinking Historically About Voting in America

James Grossman and Allen Mikaelian, writing at AHA Today, call our attention to a blog post by Jonathan Bernstein at the Washington Post blog, “The Plum Line.”

Bernstein challenges a rather progressive view of the history of American voting by reminding us that there were many in American history who had the right to vote, only to have it taken away from them.

Here is a taste:

Some textbook treatments of the franchise in U.S. history treat voting as a gradual but sustained series of victories, taking the nation from propertied white men in the eighteenth century to, eventually, the vote for all adults eighteen and up. That story is wrong.

A more accurate version of the story is that plenty of people who once had the vote then lost it. The most dramatic example of this is African Americans in the post-reconstruction South. But there are plenty of other examples, especially if we properly understand things that make voting more difficult (such as the imposition of the separate step of voter registration in the late 19th and early 20th century) as a form of restricting the franchise.

I would also add women in New Jersey to the mix.  From 1776 to 1807, women in the state who were not married and owned property could vote.