Does My Vote Really Count? Is it Worth it?

These are questions with a long history of debate, but the answer
to both of those questions is YES—Every Vote Counts!

"Why Every Vote Counts"...explains why you need to show up and voice your opinion on election day.

The right to vote is one of our most important civil liberties and those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must support the vehicle of freedom. Voting is an obligation that protects the liberties we enjoy.

Who Should Read This Report?

"The ignorance of one voter in a democracy impairs the security of all."
- John Fitzgerald Kennedy (1917-1963)

An informed electorate is a prerequisite for democracy. Therefore,

  • Parents use this report to discuss the importance of voting with your children.
  • Teachers can share the message with students and engage conversation.
  • Churches can educate their congregation to be informed on critical issues.
  • Politicians can use it to empower people to participate in their government.
  • Media can use this report to help create a better informed electorate.
  • Every citizen should read it for understanding their rights and responsibilities.

Political Lexicon

The following is a glossary of terms from U.S. Politics

Absentee Voting Absentee voting allows voters who cannot come to polling places a means to cast a ballot. A variety of circumstances, including residency abroad, illness, travel or military service, could prevent voters from coming to the polls on Election Day. Absentee ballots permit registered voters to mail in their votes. The Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act, a federal law, governs absentee voting in presidential elections. Absentee voting rules for all other elections are set by the states, and vary. In Oregon, all elections are conducted by mail, but voters have the option of voting in person at county polling stations.
Ballot a piece of paper listing the candidates running for office. A ballot is used to cast a vote. The word ballot comes from the Italian word, ballota (meaning “little colored ball”), because votes were originally cast using balls. In ancient Athens, each voter was given a small clay ball, and the voter would drop the ball into their candidate’s clay pot, or ballot box. The practice of using balls to cast votes continued up until the late 19th century, well after more advanced voting machines were invented.
Ballot Box a box in which votes are placed.
Ballot Initiative Ballot initiatives are an example of direct democracy in the United States, in which citizens may propose legislative measures or amendments to state constitutions. Some initiatives propose the repeal of existing state laws. States vary in the number of signatures they require to place an initiative on the ballot. These initiatives (also called "propositions" in some states) are subject to approval, by a simple majority in most, but not all cases.
Blackball In the 19th century, to vote for someone’s membership in to a secret society, a voter was given two balls: a white ball and a black ball. To vote in favor of the candidate’s membership, the voter would drop the white ball into a box. To vote against a candidate, the voter would deposit the black ball. The term is still used today to mean to exclude someone.
Beauty Contest A preliminary vote usually taken early in the electoral process within a party; it expresses a non-binding preference for one or another of the party's candidates.
Bill of Rights the Bill of Rights is the first 10 amendments to the US Constitution. These amendments were ratified on December 15, 1791. The Bill of Rights was proposed to ensure that individuals would have civil rights and could avoid the tyranny of an overly-powerful central government.
Bipartisan supported by members of the two major political parties (the Democrats and the Republicans).
Bicameral consisting of two legislative branches, like the US Congress, which consists of the House of Representatives and the Senate.
Blanket Primary a primary election in which the names of all the candidates for all the parties are on one ballot.
Blog Short for weblog, a blog is an unedited online journal. Candidates use blogs to tell users of their Web sites about their activities. Others use blogs to follow the development of campaign issues or events. Political blogs are created by “bloggers,” individuals who post commentary and news from their own perspective. Political blogs, like blogs in general, reflect a broad spectrum of opinion.
Blue State Blue state is a term used to refer to a U.S. state where the majority of voters usually support Democratic candidates.
Buckley v. Valeo The legal challenge Buckley v. Valeo resulted in a landmark 1976 U.S. Supreme Court decision on campaign finance law that upheld the Federal Election Campaign Act's financial disclosure requirements, contribution limits and provision for public funding of presidential election campaigns. The court struck down spending limits in the law, except for the limits accepted voluntarily by presidential candidates who receive public funds. Thus, the ruling allowed for unlimited spending by congressional candidates (they do not receive public funds) and by persons or groups who campaign for or against a candidate, but who do not coordinate their activities with any candidate or campaign. The ruling also said that candidates who do not receive public money do not have to limit campaign spending of their own personal funds.
Butterfly Ballot a type of paper ballot in which the actual voting is done by the central fold of a two-page, pamphlet-like ballot (the two open pages are like a butterfly's wings; the voting is done where the butterfly's body would be).
Campaign a series of political actions (like advertisements, public appearances, and debates) that are used to help a candidate get elected to office.
Candidate a person who is running for an office.
Caucus A caucus is a meeting at the local level in which registered members of a political party in a city, town or county gather to express support for a candidate. For statewide or national offices, those recommendations are combined to determine the state party nominee. The term also is applied to a group of party members that meets to plan policy. Two well-known examples of such groups are the Congressional Black Caucus and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, whose members discuss and advance the interests of their respective constituencies.
Chad a tiny bit of paper that is punched from a ballot using a punch-type mechanical voting machine.
Challenger A challenger is a candidate running against a person who currently holds the position (the incumbent).
Closed Primary Candidates from the two major political parties (Democratic and Republican) compete to be their party’s nominee for an office in a primary election. Closed primaries are restricted to voters registered as a member of the party holding the election. Unaffiliated voters receive ballots for other measures and nonpartisan contests that occur on the same date.
Coattails The expression “coattails” is an allusion to the rear panels ("tails") of a man's coat. In American politics, it refers to the ability of a popular officeholder or candidate for office, on the strength of his or her own popularity, to increase the chances for victory of other candidates of the same political party. This candidate is said to carry others to victory on his or her coattails.
Congress the US Congress, which makes the country's laws, is divided into the Senate and the House of Representatives. There are currently 100 Senators (2 from each state) and 435 members of the House of Representatives (Representatives are divided by population among the states, with each state having at least 1 representative).
Congressional District an area within a state from which a member of the House of Representatives is elected. There are 435 Congressional districts. Each district has about 570,000 people. Seats (positions) in the House of Representatives are reapportioned every 10 years; since the number of Representatives is set to 435, some areas lose Representatives and others gain some.
Conservative people who generally like to uphold current conditions and oppose changes. Conservatives are often referred to as the right wing.
Constituency The people a government official represents make up his or her constituency. The term is sometimes is used to refer only to those individuals who voted to elect the official. The president's constituency is composed of all Americans; a mayor's constituency is the people who reside in the town or city.
Convention In presidential election years, after the conclusion of state primaries and caucuses, the political parties gather to select a presidential nominee – usually the candidate who secured the support of the most convention delegates, based on victories in primary elections. The presidential nominee usually chooses a running mate to be the candidate for vice president, but the presidential nominee can throw open the vice presidential selection process to the convention delegates without making a recommendation.
Convention Bounce An increase in a presidential candidate's popularity, as indicated by public-opinion polls, in the days immediately following his or her nomination for office at the Republican or Democratic national conventions.
Debate A structured discussion involving two or more opposing sides of an issue is a debate. In American politics in recent years, debates have come to be associated with televised programs at which candidates present their own and their party's views, in response to questions from the media or members of the audience. Debates also may be held via radio, the Internet or at a community meeting place. They can be held among those who seek elective office at all levels of government.
Delegate a person who is chosen to represent a local political party at a political convention.
Democrat a person who belongs to the Democratic political party.
Democratic Party a major US political party. The symbol of the Democratic party is the donkey. The first Democratic US President was Andrew Jackson.
Democracy a form of government in which people hold the power, either by voting for measures directly or by voting for representatives who vote for them. The word democracy comes from the Greek language; in Greek, demos means "people" and kratos mean "power." In a democracy, the power of the government is in the hands of its people.
Divided Government A situation in which the U.S. president is a member of one political party and at least one chamber of Congress (either the Senate or the House of Representatives) is controlled by the opposite party is called a divided government. This situation also can exist at the state level, with one party controlling the governorship and another controlling the state legislature. Divided government occurs frequently in the U.S. political system.
Election a process in which people vote to choose a leader or to decide an issue.
Election Assistance
Established by the Help America Vote Act of 2002, the Election Assistance Commission serves primarily as a national clearinghouse and resource for information on elections. It also reviews federal election administration and procedures.
Electoral College The president and vice president are selected through the electoral college system, which gives each state the same number of electoral votes as it has members of Congress. The District of Columbia also gets three electoral votes. Of the total 538 votes, a candidate for president must receive 270 to win.
Executive Branch the part of the US government that administers the laws and other affairs of the government; it includes the President (also called the Chief Executive), the President's staff, executive agencies (the Office of Management and Budget, the National Security Council, etc.) and Cabinet departments (like the State Department, the Dept. of Defense, the Dept. of Agriculture, etc.).
Exit Poll an informal poll taken as people leave the voting booth. Exit polls are used to predict the outcome of the election before the polls are closed.
Favorite Sons For decades, in a practice lasting well into the 1960s, governors, senators and other prominent figures filed as presidential candidates in their home states only, won party primaries and then led delegations to the nominating convention. Historically, “favorite sons” influenced platforms and the process by trading their delegate votes for concessions from front-running candidates. The term also is used more broadly to describe a state’s most illustrious politicians.
Federal Election Campaign
Act (FECA)
The 1971 law that governs the financing of federal elections, the Federal Election Campaign was amended in 1974, 1976 and 1979. The act requires candidates and political committees to disclose the sources of their funding and how they spend their money; it regulates the contributions received and expenditures made during federal election campaigns; and it governs the public funding of presidential elections.
Federal Election
Commission (FEC)
The Federal Election Commission is an independent regulatory agency charged with administering and enforcing federal campaign finance law. The FEC consists of six commissioners appointed by the president with the advice and consent of the Senate. The FEC was established by the 1974 amendment of the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971.
Front-loading The practice of scheduling state party caucuses and state primary elections earlier and earlier in advance of the general election is called front-loading. By moving their primaries to early dates, states hope to lend decisive momentum to one or two presidential candidates and thus have disproportionate influence on each party's nomination. "Rear-loading" refers to the intense activity at the end of the yearlong cycle -- just prior to the election -- which includes a series of nationally televised debates, a flurry of television ads and extensive campaign travel on the part of the presidential candidates.
Front Runner A candidate in any election or nomination process who is considered most popular or most likely to win is called the front runner.
General Election an election that is being held throughout the country on the same day.
Gerrymandering a process in which a voting district is broken up or the physical boundaries of a voting district are changed in order to make it easier for one political party to win future elections. The term gerrymander was coined in 1812 when a county in Massachusetts was redistricted into a salamander-like shape by Gov. Elbridge Gerry for political purposes. His last name was combined with the word salamander to get "gerrymander."
Hanging Chad a chad is a tiny bit of paper that is punched from a ballot using a punch-type mechanical voting machine. A hanging chad is a chad that did not completely detach from the ballot. When there is a hanging chad, that vote may not be counted correctly.
Hard Money / Soft Money Hard money and soft money are terms used to differentiate between campaign funding that is, and is not, regulated under federal campaign finance law. Hard money describes donations by individuals and groups made directly to political candidates running for federal office. Such contributions are restricted by law. Soft money refers to donations not regulated by law that can be spent only on civic activities such as voter-registration drives, party-building activities, administrative costs and in support of state and local candidates. “Soft money” contributions, by law, may not be used to support directly a candidate for federal office. The U.S. Supreme Court in 2003 upheld congressional restrictions passed in 2002 on soft money contributions.
Hatch Act The Hatch Act places restrictions on political activity by employees of the executive branch of the U.S. federal government, District of Columbia government, and state and local employees who work in connection with federally funded programs. Under the act, employees are permitted to contribute to a candidate's campaign, but are restricted from using official authority to influence an election, including soliciting or receiving political contributions, and engaging in political activity while on duty, which includes wearing political buttons. Employees may run for office in a nonpartisan election, such as many school board elections, but are prohibited from running in a partisan election.
Help America Vote
Act (HAVA)
Congress passed HAVA to address voting problems encountered in the 2000 presidential election. The act encourages state and local governments to eliminate punch-card and lever voting machines. Under HAVA, states have received $2.9 billion since 2003 to improve their elections processes. The law also established the Election Assistance Commission to provide support to the administration of federal elections, as well as election laws and programs.
Horse Race Used as a metaphor for an election campaign, "horse race" is used to describe a close contest and conveys the feeling of excitement that people experience when watching a sporting event.
House of Representatives the House of Representatives is part of Congress; they propose and vote on legislation (laws). There are 435 members of the House of Representatives (divided by population among the states, with each state having at least 1 representative). There are 435 Congressional districts. Each district has about 570,000 people. Seats (positions) in the House of Representatives are reapportioned every 10 years; since the number of Representatives is set to 435, some areas lose Representatives and others gain some. Representatives are elected to a term of 2 years.
Incumbent An individual currently holding a position is the incumbent. Historically, incumbents have enjoyed a better-than-average chance of being re-elected.
Independent A candidate or voter not affiliated with a particular political party is termed an independent.
Judicial Branch The part of the US government that settles disputes and administers justice. The judicial branch is made up of the court system, including US District Courts, many Federal courts, the US Court of Appeals (also called the Federal Circuit Courts), and the Supreme Court.
Lame Duck The term lame duck refers to an elected official who has lost an election, or soon will be leaving office, during the period between the election and the date a successor will take over. Such an individual is in a weakened position politically due to the impending expiration of his or her term.
Landslide A victory in which one candidate's votes far surpass those of other candidates is called a landslide.
Legislative Branch the part of the US government that makes the laws and appropriates funds. The Legislative Branch includes the US House of Representative and Senate (plus congressional staffs and committees) plus support agencies (like the General Accounting Office, the Congressional Budget Office, the Library of Congress, etc.).
Liberal people who generally like to reform current conditions. Liberals are often referred to as the left wing.
Libertarian a person who belongs to the Libertarian political party.
Lobbyist people who are associated with groups (like labor unions, corporations, etc.) and who try to persuade members of the government (like members of Congress) to enact legislation that would benefit their group.
Majority more than half of the votes.
Matching Funds or
Public Funding
Public money can be given to presidential candidates that "matches" funds they have raised privately from individuals. Contributions from individuals in which the aggregate amount contributed by the individual is $250 or less are eligible to be matched on a dollar- for-dollar basis from the Presidential Election Campaign Fund. This fund includes proceeds from the voluntary check-off of $3 per person from income tax returns of eligible taxpayers.
McCain-Feingold Law Formally titled the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, the McCain-Feingold Law is named after its two chief Senate sponsors, John McCain, a Republican from Arizona, and Russell Feingold, a Democrat from Wisconsin, who sought to remove "soft money" as an influence on candidates running for federal office. The law eliminated “loopholes” (or legislative oversights) that in the past allowed the use of soft money to aid candidates running for federal office.
midterm election a general election that does not coincide with a presidential election year, but occurs two years into the term of a president. In a midterm election, some members of the US Senate, all members of the House of Representatives, and many state and local positions are voted on.
Motor-Voter Bill a bill passed by Congress in 1993 that lets US citizens register to vote when they apply for a driver's license.
Negative Ads Negative advertisements that try to persuade voters to choose a candidate by making the opposing candidate look bad, by attacking either the opponent's character or record on the issues.
Nominee A person selected by others for election to office is the nominee. Nominees may be selected in primary elections or caucuses. When only one candidate from a party has filed to run for a political office, that candidate becomes the party’s nominee without any further selection process.
Open Primary An open primary is one in which all registered voters may vote, regardless of whether they are registered as Democrats, Republicans or Independents.
Platform In the context of U.S. presidential politics, platform refers to a political party's formal written statement of its principles and goals, put together and issued during the presidential nomination process and subject to approval affirmed during the party’s national political convention.
Plurality A plurality is one method of identifying the winning candidate in an election. A plurality occurs when the votes received by a candidate are greater than those received by any opponent but can be less than a majority of the total vote. For example, if one candidate receives 30 percent of the votes, a second candidate also receives 30 percent and a third receives 40 percent, the third candidate could win the election by a plurality of the votes.
Political Action
Committee (PAC)
PACs are political committees not related directly to a political party, but rather affiliated with corporations, labor unions or other organizations. The committees contribute money to candidates and engage in other election-related activities so as to promote specific legislative agendas. Funds are gathered by voluntary contributions from members, employees or shareholders. PACs have increased significantly in influence and number in recent years: in 1976, there were 608 PACs, and in 2006, there are about 4,600.
Political Gridlock In politics, when one side (or, in some cases, more than one side) in a political matter manages to stall things so there is no room for maneuver or compromise and nothing can be accomplished, the situation is described as gridlock.
Political Party an organized group of people with common values and goals, who try to get their candidates elected to office. The Democrats and the Republicans are the two major political parties in the USA today.
Politician a person who is running for office or has won an election and is already in office.
Poll/Polling A public opinion poll is created when a polling firm contacts a sample group of randomly selected citizens and asks a series of standard questions. If executed properly, the poll’s data reflect the range of opinions and the portion of the population that holds them in a manner representative of the full population. Public opinion polls provide an idea of what many Americans think about various candidates and issues.
Poll Tax money that must be paid in order to vote. There used to be poll taxes in some places in the USA; this tax kept many poor people from voting since they could not afford to pay the tax. The 24th Amendment to the Constitution (ratified in 1964) made poll taxes illegal.
Popular Vote the result of the votes of the eligible voters. The winner of the popular vote usually wins the election (but not always - sometimes the outcome of the vote of the Electoral College is different).
Precinct the smallest geographic area in US voting subdivisions, in which local party officials are elected. A precinct usually has from 200 to 1,000 voters in it. Each precinct has an elected precinct captain (the neighborhood party leader). The purpose of a precinct is vote for a candidate and to elect delegates who will go to the city or county convention, and relay the precinct's vote for that candidate.
Primary Election A state-level election in which voters choose a candidate affiliated with a political party to run against a candidate who is affiliated with another political party in a later, general election. A primary may be either "open" -- allowing any registered voter in a state to vote for a candidate to represent a political party, or "closed" -- allowing only registered voters who belong to a particular political party to vote for a candidate from that party.
Protest Vote A vote for a third-party candidate made, not to elect that candidate, but to indicate displeasure with the candidates of the two major political parties.
Push Polling A public-opinion polling technique that is used to test possible campaign themes by asking very specific questions about an issue or a candidate is call push polling.
Redistricting The process of redrawing the geographic boundaries of congressional districts, the electoral districts within states from which members of the House of Representatives are elected, is called redistricting. Both Democrats and Republicans at the state level compete to get hold of the legal and political mechanisms of redistricting -- usually by controlling the state legislature. By doing so, they can redraw boundaries of congressional districts in ways that will lend an electoral advantage to their own party.
Red State Red state refers to a U.S. state where the majority of voters support Republican candidates.
Referendum A measure referred to voters by a state legislature proposing that specific legislation be approved or rejected is a referendum. The terms referendum, proposition and ballot initiative frequently are used interchangeably.
Representative Democracy a government in which the adult citizens of the country vote to elect the country's leaders. These elected leaders make the governmental decisions.
Republican a person who belongs to the Republican political party.
Republican Party a major US political party also known as the G.O.P. (standing for the Grand Old Party). The symbol of the Republican party is the elephant. The Republican party was founded as an anti-slavery party in the mid 1800s. The first Republican US President was Abraham Lincoln.
Senate the Senate is part of Congress. Senators propose and vote on legislation (laws). There are 100 members of the Senate (two Senators for each state). Senators are elected to a term of 6 years.
Single-Member District Single-member district describes the current arrangement for electing national and state legislators in the United States in which one candidate is elected in each legislative district; the winner is the candidate with the most votes. The "single-member" system allows only one party to win in any given district. Under the proportional system popular in Europe, much larger districts are used and several members are elected at one time, based on the proportion of votes their parties receive.
Soft Money money that is given to a political party but is not given specifically to support a particular candidate. This money is supposed to be used for purposes such as voter registration drives, administrative costs and general political party expenses, but is often used by the parties to help particular candidates.
Sound Bite A sound bite is a brief, very quotable remark by a candidate for office that is repeated on radio and television news programs.
Spin Doctor A media adviser or political consultant employed by a campaign to ensure that a candidate receives the best possible publicity in any given situation is called a spin doctor. When these media advisers practice their craft, they are said to be "spinning" or putting "spin" on a situation or event to present it as favorably as possible to their side.
Straw Vote An unofficial vote that is used either to predict the outcome of an official vote, or to measure the relative strength of candidates for office in a future election is called straw poll or straw vote. A good showing in a straw vote can give a candidate a boost, but does not necessarily predict later success.
Stump Speech The "standard" speech of a candidate for office -- the one he or she is most likely to use, perhaps with slight variations, on normal occasions.
Suffrage the right or privilege of voting.
Suffragette a person who campaigned for the right of women to vote. The 19th amendment (ratified in 1920) to the US Constitution gave women the right to vote.
Super Tuesday Widespread use of the phrase "Super Tuesday" dates from 1988, when a group of Southern states banded together to hold the first large and effective regional group of primaries in order to boost the importance of Southern states in the presidential nomination process and lessen the impact of early votes in the New Hampshire primary and Iowa caucus. Today, the meaning of the phrase is blurred, a reflection of the fact that during the presidential primary season there may be several groups of state primaries in various regions falling on one or more Tuesdays. These groupings are important because the weight of such a large, simultaneous vote tends to make or break would-be presidential nominees since so many convention delegates are selected at once.
Swing Voters Voters not loyal to a particular political party sometimes can determine the outcome of an election by "swinging" one way or the other on an issue or candidate, often reversing their choices in a subsequent election.
Taxpayer Check-Off
The taxpayer check-off system allows U.S. taxpayers to contribute $3 of their annual federal income tax payment to a public fund for financing presidential elections. To contribute, taxpayers simply check a box on their tax return that says that they want to participate in this system. Making the contribution does not raise or lower an individual's taxes; it simply deposits $3 of the tax payment into the presidential election campaign fund.
Term Limits Term limits involve restricting the number of years an officeholder or lawmaker may serve in a particular office. There is a term limit for the U.S. president, who may serve no more than two consecutive terms, or eight years total. There are no term limits for those who serve in the U.S. Senate or House of Representatives. Some state and local offices also are subject to terms limits.
Third Party Any political party that is not one of the two parties that dominated U.S. politics in the 20th century -- the Republican Party and the Democratic Party -- and that receives a base of support and plays a role in influencing the outcome of an election is referred to as a third party.
Ticket Splitting Voting for candidates of different political parties in the same election, for instance, voting for a Democrat for president and a Republican for senator, is called splitting the ticket. Because these voters support candidates from more than one political party, they are said to "split" their votes.
Town Meeting A town meeting is an informal gathering of an officeholder or candidate for office with a group of people, often local, in which the audience raises questions directly to the officeholder or candidate.
Tracking Survey A type of public-opinion poll that allows candidates to follow, or "track" voters' sentiments over the course of a campaign is called a tracking survey. For the initial survey, the pollster interviews the same number of voters on three consecutive nights -- for example, 400 voters a night, for a total sample of 1,200 people. On the fourth night, the pollster interviews 400 more voters, adds their responses to the poll data, and drops the responses from the first night. Continuing in this way, the sample rolls along at a constant 1,200 responses drawn from the previous three nights. Over time, the campaign can analyze the data from the entire survey and observe the effect of certain events on voters' attitudes.
US Constitution the official document that is the basis of government and law in the United States. It was written in 1787, and ratified in 1789. Many amendments have been added since then.
Vote a way to show your preference and choose elected leaders or decide on initiatives. People can vote by marking a piece of paper, raising their hand, or filling out a form on a computer.
Voting Booth a small enclosure in which a person votes.
Voting Machine a mechanical device used for voting. There are many different types of voting machines.

History of Voting Technology

Since the ancient Greeks and Romans first cast votes by dropping clay marbles into pots, new technologies aimed at improving the voting process have emerged. Voting in the United States has progressed from colored beans to all-electronic machines. As new technology solves old problems new questions and concerns inevitably occur.

1856 The Australian state of Victoria becomes the first place to use uniform official ballots. This style of paper ballot, later called the Australian Secret Ballot, is printed at the government's expense, lists the names of all candidates and issues in a fixed order, and is counted by hand.
1888 Massachusetts becomes the first state in the U.S. to adopt the Australian Secret Ballot system on a statewide basis. This voting system is still used in some areas of the country (approximately 1% of voters cast hand counted paper ballots in the 2004 U.S. Presidential election).
January 8 1889 Herman Hollerith patents a method of using punched cards to compile data for the U.S. Census. Although this punch card system (U.S. Patent 395,782) was not used for voting, the technology laid the foundation for the punch card voting systems developed in the 1960's.
November 19, 1889 Jacob H. Myers of Rochester, New York patents the first mechanical lever voting machine (U.S. Patent 415,549). This technology, later called the Myers Automatic Booth, prevents over votes, speeds up the vote counting process, and significantly reduces the chance of dishonest vote counting because the votes are counted by machine.
1892 The Myers Automatic Booth lever voting machine was first used in 1892 in Lockport, New York... Lever machines were on the cutting edge of technology, with more moving parts than almost anything else being made. As such, they were as much of a high-tech solution to the problem of running an honest election as computer tabulated punched-cards in the 1960's or direct-recording electronic voting machines in the 1990's.
1930 By 1930, lever machines had been installed in virtually every major city in the United States.
1962 The first use of mark-sense [optical scan] ballots was in 1962, in Kern City, California, using a mark-sense system developed by the Norden Division of United Aircraft and the City of Los Angeles. Development of this 15,000 pound system began in 1958... and the system remained in use in Orange County for over a decade. The system also saw use in Oregon, Ohio, and North Carolina.
1964 Fulton and DeKalb Counties in Georgia were the first jurisdictions to use punch cards and computer tally machines when they adopted the system for the 1964 primary election. In the November 1964 Presidential election, these two jurisdictions were joined by Lane County, Oregon, and San Joaquin and Monterey Counties in California, who also adopted the punch card system.
August 17, 1965 Joseph P. Harris, with the help of William Rouverol, patents the Votomatic punch card voting system (U.S. Patent 3,201,038). In this system a voter marks their choice by punching a hole in a prescored card marked with numbers which correspond to candidates and ballot issues listed in a separate booklet. The votes are then tabulated by a computerized counting machine. The Votomatic was an improvement upon the punch card system used the year before and eventually becomes the most commonly used type of punch card voting system.
Feb. 19, 1974 Richard H. McKay, along with Paul Ziebold, James Kirby, Douglas Hetzel, and James Syndacker, patents a direct recording electronic (DRE) voting machine that becomes the first DRE to be used in a real election. This push-button machine, commercially named the Video Voter (U.S. Patent 3,793,505), uses projected light and phototransmitors but does not contain a computer.
1975 The Video Voter was first used in real elections in 1975, in Streamwood and Woodstock Illinois. Following these demonstrations, several Illinois counties purchased the system and used it between 1976 and 1980, approximately.
March 1975 Roy Saltman prepares the first U.S. government report to evaluate computerized voting technology. "Effective Use of Computing Technology in Vote-Tallying" investigates voting system security, design, and functionality, as well as the ability to conduct audits of election processes and ballot recounts. This paper initiates the federal Voting Systems Standards program.
May 3, 1977 James O. Narey, with the help of William Saylor, patents (U.S.Patent 4,021,780) the first model of the modern precinct-based optical scan systems in use today.
1982 In 1982, the AIS [American Information Systems] model 315 central-count ballot tabulator saw its first official use in several Nebraska counties. In 1997, AIS was reorganized as Election Systems and Software [ES&S] after a merger with Business Records Corporation. The AIS model 315 became the first optical scan system to be widely used throughout the United States.
February 3, 1987 The R.F. Shoup Corporation and Chief Engineer Robert J. Boram patent the Shouptronic ELECTronic voting machine (U.S. Patent 4,641,240). This push-button machine was one of the first direct recording electronic voting machines to achieve significant commercial success.
1988 Roy Saltman states in his report "Accuracy, Integrity, and Security in Computerized Vote-Tallying" that "the use of pre-scored punch cards contributes to the inaccuracy and to the lack of confidence. It is generally not possible to exactly duplicate a count obtained on pre-scored punch cards, given the inherent physical characteristics of these ballots and variability in the ballot-punching performance of real voters. It is recommended that the use of pre-scored punch card ballots be ended." Despite his warning, use of punch card voting systems continues until widespread problems in the 2000 U.S. Presidential election prompt these systems to be banned by the Help America Vote Act of 2002.
1990 The Federal Election Commission (FEC) releases the first set of standards for computer-based voting systems. The "Performance and Test Standards for Punch card, Marksense [optical scan], and Direct Recording Electronic Voting Systems" are commonly referred to as the Voting Systems Standards (VSS).
1996 The first governmental election to be conducted over the Internet in the US was the 1996 Reform Party Presidential primary, in which Internet voting was offered, along with vote-by-mail and vote-by-phone, as an option to party members who did not attend the party convention.
November 7, 2000 Problems with punch card voting systems, particularly in Florida, in the 2000 Presidential Election between George W. Bush and Al Gore put voting technology in the national spotlight. Inaccurate registration lists, unclear ballot designs, high numbers of spoiled ballots, and questions about voter intent on cards where the chad, the small piece of paper punched out of punch card ballots, was not fully punched out were among the problems. "Hanging chad," "dimpled chad," and "pregnant chad" are phrases that enter everyday conversation.
2001 Faculty from the California Institute of Technology and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology create the Voting Technology Project in the wake of the 2000 election to provide strong academic guidance in this intersection of technology with democracy. They offer several recommendations to improve election administration for the future in their July, 2001 report Voting: What Is and What Could Be.
May 2002 The FEC releases an updated version of the standards for electronic voting systems. The Voting Systems Standards expand on the first set of standards by focusing on the voting medium instead of specific kinds of voting systems and addressing accessibility, usability, telecommunications, and audit trails.
October 29, 2002 President George W. Bush signs the first law to specifically address voting technology. The Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA) is "an act to establish a program to provide funds to States to replace punch card voting systems, to establish the Election Assistance Commission to assist in the administration of Federal elections and to otherwise provide assistance with the administration of certain Federal election laws and programs, to establish minimum election administration standards for States and units of local government with responsibility for the administration of Federal elections, and for other purposes." The Help America Vote Act of 2002 is signed into law in an effort to improve voting systems across the country. The law mandates that all polling places have at least one handicap-accessible voting device, guarantees that any voter not appearing on a registration list has the right to cast a provisional vote, assures that all voters have the opportunity to review their selections before casting a ballot, establishes the Election Assistance Commission, and authorizes $3.9 billion in federal funds for replacing lever machines and punch card voting systems with either DREs or optical scan systems with accessible ballot marking devices.
2002 Following passage of HAVA, the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) is established. The EAC is tasked with providing support and technical guidance on the administration of federal elections, disbursing the funds allocated under HAVA, developing a new set of standards, implementing a new program for testing and certifying voting machines, and serving as a clearinghouse of election information.
2002 Georgia becomes the first state to implement the use of direct recording electronic voting machines on a statewide basis, deploying the DREs at the same time in every county and paying for the implementation with state funds instead of county funds.
July 23, 2003 Computer security experts Avi Rubin and Dan Wallach, along with graduate students Tadayoshi Kohno and Adam Stubblefield, evaluate the security of a particular model of electronic voting machine based on source code they found on the Internet. Their analysis reveals several vulnerabilities that lead them to conclude these systems should not be used for federal elections. This critique is the first independent security analysis to raise concern about DREs and inspires many computer scientists to join the debate over the use of electronic voting machines.
December 9, 2003 The Information Technology Association of America (ITAA) today announced a group of leading election systems companies will align with ITAA to form the Election Technology Council (ETC). ETC members will work together to raise the profile of electronic voting, identify and address security concerns with electronic voting, develop a code of ethics for companies in the electronic voting sector, and make recommendations in the areas of election system standards and certification.
April 30, 2004 Secretary of State Kevin Shelley decertifies all touch screen electronic voting machines in the state of California and bans their use in four counties that had been using them until significant improvements are made to the security of the systems.
May 5, 2004 The U.S. Election Assistance Commission conducts their first public meeting, inviting testimony from a diversity of experts including election officials, computer scientists, disability advocates, and voting machine manufacturers.
July 16, 2004 Nevada becomes the first state to mandate that all electronic voting machines used for federal elections be equipped with printers that produce a voter-verified paper audit trail.
November 2004 During the November 2004 General Election in Carteret County, North Carolina electronic voting machines lost 4,438 votes. The manufacturer, Unilect, claimed the machines could store up to 10,500 votes but they actually only held 3,005 votes. Officials were unaware of the problem because the machines kept accepting votes after their memory was full, despite not being able to store them, and those votes were irretrievably lost.
September 2005 The Commission on Federal Election Reform, chaired by President Jimmy Carter and former U.S. Secretary of State James Baker, releases a report. Building Confidence in U.S. Elections makes several recommendations for improving confidence in elections and modernizing election administration, including a recommendation that all DREs include voter-verified paper audit trails.
December 2005 Black Box Voting, Inc. sets up a demonstration in Leon County, Florida in which computer security experts Harri Hursti and Herbert Thompson are able to hack into the central vote tabulator of an electronic voting system and change the outcome of a mock election without leaving any trace of their actions. This exercise demonstrates that the software running electronic voting systems is vulnerable to tampering.
December 13, 2005 The EAC unanimously adopts the 2005 Voluntary Voting System Guidelines. These new standards significantly increase security requirements for voting systems and expand accessibility for disabled individuals, including opportunities to vote privately and independently. The Guidelines will take effect in December 2007, at which time all previous standards will become obsolete.
January 1, 2006 Beginning in 2006, HAVA requires that voting systems notify voters of over votes and permit them to review their ballots and correct errors before casting their votes.... Also beginning in 2006, [HAVA requires] that each polling place used in a federal election have at least one voting machine that is fully accessible for persons with disabilities.
May 11, 2006 Black Box Voting, Inc. and computer security specialist Harri Hursti perform a security test on an electronic voting machine delivered to Emery County, Utah. Hursti shows that the machine contains backdoors that allow the software to be modified in several ways, including a type of attack in which the cheating software can be installed months or years before it is executed.
September 13, 2006 Computer security expert Dr. Edward Felten, with the help of graduate students Ariel Feldman and J. Alex Halderman, demonstrates that with less than a minute of physical access to a Diebold electronic voting machine or its PCMCIA memory card, an attacker could install malware that could steal votes while modifying all records, logs, and counters to be consistent with the fraudulent vote count it creates and could also introduce a voting machine virus that spreads from machine to machine.
September 21, 2006 Maryland Governor Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr. (R) publicly urges voters to vote by absentee paper ballot instead of using the state's electronic voting machines in the November 2006 General Election after problems with the machines emerged during Maryland's primary. His announcement represents a complete change of opinion about DREs because Maryland had previously been one of the first states to implement electronic voting machines on a statewide basis while Ehrlich was governor in 2002.
November 7, 2006 Because of funding made available and changes mandated by the Help America Vote Act, use of DREs in the General Election is the highest in U.S. history. According to Election Data Services, voting system changes this year were dominated by smaller jurisdictions, where resources to help the conversion are more limited... Thirty-six percent (36%) of the counties, with 38.4% of the registered voters, will be using direct recording electronic (DRE) equipment.
January 4 - 2007 The New York Times reports that CIBER Inc., the nation's largest tester of electronic voting machine software, was denied accreditation by the EAC in July 2006. Because CIBER had tested many of the electronic voting systems used in the November 2006 election and its failure to receive accreditation was not disclosed until January 2007, many election officials unknowingly employed DREs that had not been tested by an accredited lab.
Dec. 14, 2007 EVEREST Report Finds DREs Do Not Meet Computer Industry Security Standards
The EVEREST Report of Findings commissioned by Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer L. Brunner finds that all of "the computer-based voting systems in use in Ohio do not meet computer industry security standards and are susceptible to breaches of security that may jeopardize the integrity of the voting process."
Jan. 2008 Florida Fair Elections Center Reports over 100,000 Florida Votes Not Counted in Nov. 2006
The Florida Fair Elections Center report "Sarasota’s Vanished Votes: An Investigation into the Cause of Uncounted Votes in the 2006 Congressional District 13 Race in Sarasota County, Florida” states that "the iVotronic voting system failed to count over 100,000 votes in various races across the state of Florida in the November 2006 election.”
Nov. 4, 2008 2008 Presidential Election Runs Relatively Smoothly
Despite widely-publicized concerns in the weeks leading up to the 2008 presidential election, election day went rather smoothly. There were reports of glitches with electronic voting machines in Florida, Ohio and Virginia. The lack of a close outcome in the presidential race limited the impact of the minor problems that arose.
June 5, 2009 Sequoia Voting Systems Allows Access to Technical Information about DREs
In response to the controversial Washington, D.C. September primaries where Sequoia machines counted more ballots than there were votes, Sequoia Voting Systems agrees to turn over access to technical information on how the voting machines work and tabulate results. This agreement then allows the D.C. Council to turn over documents such as blueprints of the machines and the source code to computer and legal experts for examination.
Sep. 3, 2009 Diebold, Inc. Sells Election-Systems Business to Election Systems & Software, Inc. for $5 Million
Diebold Inc. sells its U.S. election-systems business to Election Systems & Software Inc. for $5 million, about one-fifth of what it paid 7 years earlier. Diebold, whose primary focus is making ATMs, entered the voting machine business in hopes of capitalizing on rising demand following the disputed 2000 presidential election. The sale drew the concern of lawmaker Charles Schumer (D-NY), Chairman of the Senate Rules and Administration Committee, who asked the Department of Justice to review the deal. When approved, Election Systems and Software Inc. controlled over three-quarters of the voting machine market.
Sep. 13, 2010 Brennan Center Report Calls for Publicly Available National Database of Voting System Malfunctions
Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law issues a report calling for a publicly available national database containing information on voting system failures and vulnerabilities. The report finds that the same malfunctions occur frequently with the same machines in different jurisdictions. Election officials are often not aware of vulnerabilities because vendors are under no legal obligation to notify election officials of past system problems.
2011 Security Experts Hack Voting Machines by Remote Control
"Voting machines used by as many as a quarter of American voters heading to the polls in 2012 can be hacked with just $10.50 in parts and an 8th grade science education, according to computer science and security experts at the Vulnerability Assessment Team at Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois. The experts say the newly developed hack could change voting results while leaving absolutely no trace of the manipulation behind...
The team’s video demonstrates how inserting the inexpensive electronic device into the voting machine can offer a 'bad guy' virtually complete control over the machine. A cheap remote control unit can enable access to the voting machine from up to half a mile away."
Nov. 6, 2012 Long Lines Due to Voting Machine Malfunctions in 2012 Presidential Election
The elections were rife with long lines and some glitches with voting machines. A YouTube video showing a Pennsylvania voting e-voting touch screen machine "flipping" a vote from Obama to Romney went viral. Machine breakdowns in Virginia caused three to five hour long lines that prompted some polling places to remain open late. South Carolina reported too few machines as well as broken machines. Malfunctioning machines were reported in Georgia, Wisconsin, Ohio, and Colorado.
2013 New York City Returns to Lever Machines for Primary Election and Runoffs
Approximately 5,100 lever voting machines that weigh over 800 pounds and have more than 20,000 parts each, have been brought out of storage for the New York City primary election and runoffs and made ready for the general election in November. The lever machines are being used because the $95 million electronic system caused chaos in the 2012 election including a 72 day long recount involving litigation for the special election for State Senate in Brooklyn.
July 29, 2017 First-Ever Voting Machine "Hackathon" Reveals Many Vulnerabilities in Electronic Voting Machines and Poll Systems
"E-voting machines and voter registration systems used widely in the United States and other countries’ elections can readily be hacked—in some cases with less than two hours’ work. This conclusion emerged from a three-day-long hackathon at the Def Con security conference in Las Vegas… Def Con, an annual computer hacking conference celebrating its 25th year, hosted its first Voting Machine Hacking Village this year.
In it, conference attendees were given access to many of the most popular voting machines and voter registration tracking systems in use around the world today. And before the Hacking Village organizers were even finished with their opening morning introductory remarks, a Danish hacker in the audience had already broken into one of the target machines wirelessly. Soon after on the same morning, a second group in the room wirelessly hacked into a popular electronic poll book system, responsible for storing and maintaining voter registration information. In total, the inaugural e-voting hackathon turned up at least 18 new vulnerabilities to e-voting and e-poll book systems."
August 13, 2020 The United States Postal Service (USPS) filed a patent application called “Secure Voting System” to use blockchain technology to streamline and secure mail-in voting. The ‘Secure Voting System’ patent application, published by the United States Patent and Trademark Office, describes how the same technology that supports bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies could be used to “track and secure the vote by mail system”.

It describes using blockchain technology to secure mail-in voting: A registered voter receives a computer-readable code in the mail and confirms identity and confirms correct ballot information in an election. The system separates voter identification and votes to ensure vote anonymity, and stores votes on a distributed ledger in a blockchain.


The federal election dates and deadlines presented here have been collected from the official websites of chief election offices in all states and territories. See state and local election office websites for more detailed and official information.

The 2020 Federal Elections: Key Dates and Voting Information

Register to Vote

Rock The Vote

Milestones in Voting History

The ability to vote exists as one of the most cherished Rights that our forefathers fought for, marched for, and died for over the centuries. Wars still rage so that citizens of other countries can earn this right; the right that many of us now take for granted.

The following spotlights the important milestones in voting history. It is meant to provide you with an understanding of and appreciation for the price our ancestors paid in order for us to enjoy the freedom of democracy.

I. 1776 - 1799
July 2, 1776 The New Jersey state constitution allows “all inhabitants . . . who are worth fifty pounds” to vote, including women and people of color. In 1807 the requirement is rewritten to specify only white men.
August 6, 1787 The Constitutional Convention finishes writing the U.S. Constitution.
February 4, 1789 George Washington is elected first president of the United States by the Electoral College, with all sixty-nine electoral votes.
January 1, 1790 Ten states have property requirements for voting (Connecticut, Delaware, Rhode Island, Virginia, Maryland, New Jersey, North Carolina, New York, Massachusetts, and South Carolina).
II. 1800 - 1899
December 3, 1800 Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr tie for president in the Electoral College. With no provisions existing for this situation, the House of Representatives votes for the president, electing Jefferson on February 17, 1801.
June 15, 1804 The Twelfth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is ratified, requiring separate Electoral College voting for president and vice president, and reducing from five to three the number of candidates from which the Electoral College can choose.
November 10, 1821 New York State ratifies its second constitution. Property requirements are dropped for whites, but “men of color” must have for one year “seized and possessed” a freehold over the value of $250.
July 19-21, 1848 The first Woman’s Rights Convention is held in Seneca Falls, New York. The goal of women’s suffrage is first expressed in Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s Declaration of Sentiments, basing its text on the Declaration of Independence.
March 6 1857 Dred Scott v. Sanford: The U.S. Supreme Court rules that Dred Scott, a slave brought to a free state by his master, remain a slave.
September 22, 1862 Abraham Lincoln, as commander-in-chief, issues the Emancipation Proclamation.
December 6, 1865 The Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is ratified, abolishing slavery in the United States.
April 9, 1866 The Civil Rights Act of 1866 is passed, declaring that all persons born in the United States are now citizens, without regard to race, color, or previous condition of servitude.
March 23, 1867 The Reconstruction Act of 1867 is passed, dividing former Confederate States into five military districts which would not be readmitted into the Union until they a) enacted state constitutions with African Americans given the right to vote and b) ratified the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
July 9, 1868 The Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is ratified, establishing citizenship and ensuring equal protection under the law.
May 22, 1869 National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA) is formed in New York City with Elizabeth Cady Stanton as its first president.
May 27, 1869 The American Woman Suffrage Association is formed in Boston by Lucy Stone, Henry Blackwell, and Julia Ward Howe. The AWSA and the NWSA join in 1890.
February 3, 1870 The Fifteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is ratified, declaring that citizens cannot be denied the right to vote based on “race, color, or previous condition of servitude.”
February 25, 1870 Mississippi Republican Hiram Revels becomes the first African American to be elected a U. S. Senator.
February 28, 1871 The Enforcement Act is passed, providing criminal penalties for interfering with suffrage under the Fifteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
November 5, 1872 Susan B. Anthony and eleven other women are arrested in Rochester, New York, for voting in the presidential election.
May 10, 1872 Victoria Woodhull becomes the first woman to run for president.
March 1, 1875 The Civil Rights Act is approved by the U. S. Congress. It banned racial discrimination in hotels, theaters, public transportation, and jury selection. The Act is nullified by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1883.
March 5, 1875 Mississippi Republican Blanche K. Bruce, son of a slave mother and a white planter, becomes the first African American elected to the U. S. Senate to serve a full term, 1875 to 1881.
March 2, 1877 The Electoral College declares Republican Rutherford B. Hayes the President of the United States over Democrat Samuel Tilden, thus deciding the 1876 election.
May 6, 1882 First Chinese Exclusion Act, which barred Chinese laborers from entering the United States, restricted the number and type of other Chinese from entering the country, and barred Chinese immigrants from becoming citizens through naturalization. It was renewed on May 5, 1892, and April 29, 1902.
November 3, 1884 The U. S. Supreme Court rules in Elk v. Wilkins that Native Americans, although born in the United States, were not wholly subject to the jurisdiction of the United States government, and therefore were not protected by the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
April 4, 1887 Susanna Medora Salter is the first woman elected mayor of a town in the United States-Argonia, Kansas.
July 10, 1890 Wyoming becomes the first state to grant women full suffrage rights.
April 12, 1892 The Meyers Voting Machine, the first mechanical-lever voting machine, is introduced in elections at Lockport, New York. The machine was designed to prevent voter fraud.
III. 1900 - 1999
May 8, 1906 The Burke Act is passed by the U. S. Congress, granting citizenship to Native Americans who were allotted land through the Dawes Act.
March 13, 1913 The North American Women Suffrage Association leads the Women’s Suffrage Parade in Washington, D. C. Over 6,000 participate.
April 8, 1913 The Seventeenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is ratified, setting the number of Senators of the U. S. Senate at two from each state, elected by popular vote instead of selected by state legislatures.
October 23, 1915 Twenty-five thousand women march in New York City for the right to vote.
November 7, 1916 Jeannette Rankin, Republican-Montana, is the first woman elected to Congress.
January 10, 1917 Alice Paul and the National Woman’s Party begin picketing the White House. Picketing would end in November 1917 after New York State granted women full suffrage rights.
November 6, 1917 North Dakota, Ohio, Indiana, Rhode Island, Nebraska, Michigan, New York, and Arkansas all grant women suffrage.
November 4, 1919 New York State voters pass an amendment to the state constitution allowing for absentee voting.
February 14-16, 1920 League of Women Voters is founded, with Maud Wood Park elected as president.
August 19, 1920 The Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is ratified, guaranteeing suffrage for women.
November 13, 1922 Supreme Court rules, in Takao Ozawa v. United States, that people of Japanese heritage are not eligible to become naturalized citizens.
June 2, 1924 The Snyder Act, or Indian Citizenship Act, grants Native Americans the full rights of citizenship of the United States without having to give up their tribal affiliations. However, many western states restrict voting by Native Americans.
November 4, 1924 Nellie Tayloe Ross of Wyoming and Miriam A. “Ma” Ferguson of Texas, are the first women elected as state governors.
July 12, 1932 Hattie Wyatt Caraway of Arkansas becomes the first woman elected to the U.S. Senate in a special election to succeed her deceased husband.
January 1, 1938 Reform New York City Charter goes into effect, abolishing the Board of Aldermen and establishing the City Council.
December 17, 1943 Chinese Exclusion Act is repealed, making people of Chinese ancestry eligible for U.S. citizenship.
June 30, 1952 Walter-McCarran Act grants all people of Asian ancestry the right to become citizens. However, the act sets restrictions on the number who can immigrate.
December 31, 1953 Hulan Jack sworn in as Manhattan Borough President, the first African American to serve in that position.
November 7, 1956 Dalip Singh Saund, a Democrat from Riverside County, California, is the first South Asian to be elected to the U.S. Congress.
September 9, 1957 Civil Rights Act is passed, permitting the federal government to sue on behalf of citizens and creating the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.
August 22, 1959 Republican Hiram Fong is the first person of Chinese descent to be elected to the U.S. Senate.
April 16-17, 1960 Ella Baker, a longtime civil rights activist, invites students involved in sit-ins to a conference in Raleigh, NC. The group organizes the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).
March 29, 1961 The Twenty-third Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is ratified, granting Washington, D. C. residents the right to vote in U.S. Presidential elections for the first time.
June 12, 1963 Civil Rights leader Medgar Evers is assassinated by a white supremacist in Jackson, Mississippi.
August 28, 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom brings 250,000 Americans to the capital, setting in motion the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. gives his famous “I Have a Dream” speech.
January 23, 1964 The Twenty-fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is ratified, ensuring that the right to vote in all federal elections cannot be taken away by the United States or any states due to failure to pay any poll or other tax.
June 21, 1964 Mississippi Freedom Summer Volunteers Michael Schwerner, a Columbia University graduate student, James Chaney, a young Mississippi activist, and Andrew Goodman, a student at Queens College, CUNY are murdered by the Ku Klux Klan after investigating a church burning.
July 2, 1964 Major federal Omnibus Civil Rights Act is passed, making it illegal to discriminate based on race, religion, or gender in places and businesses that served the public.
August 22, 1964 Fannie Lou Hamer, Chairwoman of the integrated Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, gives testimony to the Democratic Party National Convention in Atlantic City, NJ. She unsuccessfully demanded that the MFDP be seated as the Mississippi delegation in place of the racist all-white delegation. She asked on national television: “Is this America, the land of the free and the home of the brave, where we are threatened daily because we want to live as decent human beings?”
March 7, 1965 The Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and SNCC lead a peaceful demonstration against unjust voter registration tests in Selma, Alabama. Under the direction of Governor George Wallace, law enforcement officers brutally attack hundreds of demonstrators with clubs and tear gas, in the infamous “Bloody Sunday.”
March 21-25, 1965 March on Montgomery, Alabama led by Martin Luther King, Jr. The four-day march ends with a rally outside the state capitol in Montgomery on March 25 attended by 25,000 people.
August 6, 1965 Voting Rights Act is passed, authorizing the U.S. Attorney-General to send federal examiners to register black voters, and suspend all literacy tests in states where less than 50% of the voting-age population had been registered or had voted in the 1964 election.
July 1, 1965 The Hart-Celler Immigration Act of 1965 is signed into law by President Johnson on Liberty Island, eliminating the racist quota system of the National Origins Act of 1924.
November 1, 1966 Edward W. Brooke of Massachusetts is elected the first African-American U.S. senator since Reconstruction.
November 1, 1966 Barbara Jordan becomes the first African American to serve in the Texas state senate since 1883. She later serves in the U.S. Congress.
July 6, 1967 Martin Luther King, Jr. announces the SCLC’s first voter registration drive in a northern city, Cleveland, Ohio.
November 7, 1967 Carl Stokes is elected mayor of Cleveland, Ohio, the first African American mayor of a major city.
November 5, 1968 Shirley Chisholm of Brooklyn, New York becomes the first black woman elected to the U.S. Congress.
April 30, 1969 Governor Nelson Rockefeller signs the New York City School Decentralization Bill into law, allowing for the election of Community School Boards by proportional representation and grants voting rights to non-citizens with children attending public schools.
September 28, 1970 Senior College XVII in Brooklyn named Medgar Evers College by the City University of New York to honor the slain civil rights activist.
November 3, 1970 The Bronx elects Herman Badillo the first Puerto Rican in the U.S. Congress.
March 23, 1971 The Twenty-sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution gives 18-20 year-olds the right to vote.
November 7, 1972 Elizabeth Holtzman of Brooklyn, NY becomes the youngest women elected to the U.S. Congress.
May 19, 1975 The New York State Legislature approves a bill that allows voter registration by mail.
August 6, 1975 The Voting Rights Act is amended to include rights for language minorities.
September 28, 1984 The Voting Accessibility for the Elderly and the Handicapped Act requires “access for the elderly and handicapped individuals to registration facilities and polling places in federal elections.”
May 26, 1987 The CUNY Board of Trustees passes a resolution that all CUNY colleges must integrate voter registration into the student registration process.
July 26, 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act requires full access to voting facilities for the disabled.
October 6, 1990 The Christian Coalition of America is founded. The Coalition has registered and mobilized millions of voters.
November 3, 1992 Illinois elects Carol Moseley Braun the first African American woman in the U.S. Senate.
May 20, 1993 National Voter Registration Act is signed by President Bill Clinton, which allows voter registration at the same time as an application or renewal of a driver’s license or motor vehicle registration. In addition, it creates voter registration opportunities for those seeking services from all state offices and state-funded programs, and voter registration by mail.
January 1, 1994 Local Law 1993/094 goes into effect in New York City, establishing term limits for the mayor, city council members, public advocate, and comptroller.
IV. 2000 -
November 7, 2000 The presidential election between Albert Gore and George W. Bush ends in deadlock when Florida’s deciding electoral votes are subject to an automatic recount.
December 8, 2000 Florida Supreme Court orders a recount of “undervotes” in all sixty-seven Florida counties. Bush appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court.
December 12, 2000 U.S. Supreme Court overturns the Florida Supreme Court decision, ending all recounts and establishing Bush’s victory in Florida and his election to the presidency.
October 29, 2002 President George W. Bush signs the Help America Vote Act (HAVA), which mandates funds to states to replace punch card voting systems; to establish the Election Assistance Commission to assist in the administration of Federal elections; and to provide assistance with the administration of certain Federal election laws and programs.

Timeline of the American Suffragist Movement

Suffrage (from the Latin suffragium, meaning "vote") is the civil right to vote, or the exercise of that right. In that context, it is also called political franchise or simply the franchise.

Women's suffrage is the right of women to vote, and the women's suffrage movement was the struggle to gain the same right to vote as men.

Women today have the same voting rights as men. However, this was not always the case.

In the early nineteenth century, changing social conditions and the idea of equality led to the beginning of the woman suffrage movement.

By then, more women were receiving education. Women also began to participate in reform movements and take increased interest in politics. Women and men began to question why women were not also allowed to vote. Supporters of this drive were called suffragists.

The following timeline explains the key milestones in the American Suffragist Movement:

1637 Anne Hutchinson is convicted of sedition and expelled from the Massachusetts colony for her religious ideas.
1652 The Society of Friends, better known as the Quakers, is founded in England. Quakers will make vital contributions to the abolitionist and suffrage movements in the United States. One Quaker woman, Mary Dyer, will be hanged in 1660 for preaching in Boston.
1776 During the second Continental Congress, Abigail Adams entreats her husband John to "remember the ladies" in the new code of laws he is writing.
1790 The colony of New Jersey grants the vote to "all free inhabitants."
1807 New Jersey women lose their vote, with the repeal sponsored by a politician who was nearly defeated by a female voting block ten years earlier.
1821 Emma Hart Willard founds the Troy Female Seminary in New York--the first endowed school for girls.
1829 Author Frances Wright travels the United States on a paid lecture tour, perhaps the first ever by a woman. She attacks organized religion for the secondary place it assigns women, and advocates the empowerment of women through divorce and birth control.
1833 Oberlin College becomes the first coeducational college in the United States. In 1841, Oberlin awards the first academic degrees to three women. Early graduates include Lucy Stone and Antoinette Brown.
1836 Sarah Grimké begins her speaking career as an abolitionist and a women's rights advocate. She is eventually silenced by male abolitionists who consider her public speaking a liability.
1837 The first National Female Anti-Slavery Society convention meets in New York City. Eighty-one delegates from twelve states attend.
1837 Mary Lyon founds Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts, eventually the first four-year college exclusively for women in the United States. Mt.Holyoke was followed by Vassar in 1861, and Wellesley and Smith Colleges, both in 1875. In 1873, the School Sisters of Notre Dame found a school in Baltimore, Maryland, which would eventually become the nation's first college for Catholic women.
1838 Sarah Grimké publishes "Letters on the Equality of the Sexes and the Condition of Women." She and her sister Angelina will be active in both the suffrage and the abolitionist movements.
1839 Mississippi passes the first Married Woman's Property Act.
1840 The World Anti-Slavery Convention is held in London. Abolitionists Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton attend, but they are barred from participating in the meeting. This snub leads them to decide to hold a women's rights convention when they return to America.
1844 Female textile workers in Massachusetts organize the Lowell Female Labor Reform Association (LFLRA) and demand a 10-hour workday. This was one of the first permanent labor associations for working women in the United States.
1848 Three hundred people attend the first women's rights convention in Seneca Falls, New York. Among the attendees are Amelia Bloomer, Charlotte Woodward, and Frederick Douglas. Lucretia Mott's husband James presides. At that meeting, Stanton authors the Declaration of Sentiments, which sets the agenda for decades of women's activism. A larger meeting follows in Rochester.
1849 Harriet Tubman escapes from slavery. Over the next ten years she leads many slaves to freedom by the Underground Railroad.
1850 A women's rights conventions is held in Salem, Ohio; men are not permitted to speak at the meeting.
  Amelia Jenks Bloomer launches the dress reform movement with a costume bearing her name. The Bloomer costume was later abandoned by many suffragists who feared it detracted attention from more serious women's rights issues.
  The first National Women's Rights Convention is held in Worcester, Massachusetts; among the attendees are Paulina Wright Davis, Frederick Douglass, Abby Kelly Foster, William Lloyd Garrison, Lucy Stone, and Sojourner Truth.
1851 Sojourner Truth delivers her "Ain't I a Woman?" speech at a women's rights convention in Akron, Ohio.
  The second National Woman's Rights Convention is held in Worcester, Massachusetts; celebrities new to the list of endorsers include educator Horace Mann, New York Tribune columnist Elizabeth Oakes Smith, and Reverend Harry Ward Beecher, one of the nation's most popular preachers. Lucretia Mott presides.
  Westminster Review publishes John Stuart Mill's article, "On the Enfranchisement of Women." Mill later admits that the piece is the work of his companion, Harriet Hardy Taylor.
1852 Newspaper editor Clara Howard Nichols addresses the Vermont Senate on the topic of women's property rights, a major issue for the suffragists.
  Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin is published and rapidly becomes a best-seller.
1853 On the occasion of the World's Fair in New York City, suffragists hold a meeting in the Broadway Tabernacle. It will go down in history as "The Mob Convention," marred by "hissing, yelling, stamping, and all manner of unseemly interruptions."
  The World's Temperance Convention is held, also in New York City. Women delegates, including Rev. Antoinette Brown and Susan B. Anthony, are not allowed to speak.
1854 The Massachusetts legislature grants property rights to women.
1855 Prominent suffragists Lucy Stone and Henry Blackwell marry; they eliminate the vow of obedience from the ceremony and include a protest against unfair marriage laws.
1859 The successful vulcanization of rubber provides women with reliable condoms for the first time. The birth rate in the United States continues its downward, century-long spiral. By the late 1900s, women will raise an average of only two to three children, in contrast to the five or six children they raised at the beginning of the century.
1861-1865 The American Civil War disrupts suffrage activity as women, North and South, divert their energies to "war work." The War itself, however, serves as a "training ground," as women gain important organizational and occupational skills they will later use in postbellum organizational activity.
1866 The Eleventh National Women's Rights Convention, the first since the beginning of the Civil War, is held in New York City. Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony preside over a merger between suffragists and the American Anti-Slavery Association: the new group is called the American Equal Rights Association.
1867 Lucy Stone, Henry Blackwell, Clarina Nichols, and others travel to Kansas to agitate for women's suffrage. After months of campaigning, suffragists are defeated on the fall ballot.
  At the American Equal Rights Association annual meeting, opinions divide sharply on supporting the enfranchisement of black men before women.
1868 Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony have a falling out with longtime ally Horace Greely, editor of the New York Tribune. As a result, Stanton and Anthony begin publishing The Revolution, a weekly newspaper devoted to suffrage and other progressive causes.
  The Fourteenth Amendment is ratified, which extends to all citizens the protections of the Constitution against unjust state laws. This Amendment was the first to define "citizens" and "voters" as "male."
1869 The women's rights movement splits into two factions as a result of disagreements over the Fourteenth and soon-to-be-passed Fifteenth Amendments. Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony form the more radical, New York-based National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA). Lucy Stone, Henry Blackwell, and Julia Ward Howe organize the more conservative American Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA), which is centered in Boston.
  The Wyoming territory is organized with a woman suffrage provision.
  The territory of Wyoming is the first to grant unrestricted suffrage to women. Arguments over the Fifteenth Amendment lead to a split in the movement. Stanton and Anthony form the National Woman Suffrage Association; it allows only female membership and advocates for woman suffrage above all other issues. Lucy Stone forms the American Woman Suffrage Association, which supports the Fifteenth Amendment and invites men to participate.
1870 The American Woman Suffrage Association begins publishing the Woman's Journal, edited by Mary Livermore.
  The Fifteenth Amendment is ratified. Although its gender-neutral language appears to grant women the vote, women who go to the polls to test the amendment are turned away.
  Esther Morris is appointed the justice of the peace of South Pass City, Wyoming: she is the first female government official.
  The Utah territory enfranchises women.
1872 A suffrage proposal before the Dakota Territory legislature loses by one vote.
  Susan B. Anthony is arrested and brought to trial in Rochester, New York, for attempting to vote for Ulysses S. Grant in the presidential election. At the same time, Sojourner Truth appears at a polling booth in Battle Creek, Michigan, demanding a ballot; she is turned away.
1874 The Woman's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) is founded by Annie Wittenmyer. With Frances Willard at its head (1876), the WCTU became an important force in the fight for woman suffrage. Not surprisingly, one of the most vehement opponents to women's enfranchisement was the liquor lobby, which feared women might use the franchise to prohibit the sale of liquor.
  In the case of Minor vs. Happersett, the Supreme Court rules that the Fourteenth Amendment does not grant women the right to vote.
  A referendum gives Michigan's male voters the chance to enfranchise women, but they vote against women's suffrage.
1875 Michigan and Minnesota women win the right to vote in school elections.
1878 A federal amendment to grant women the right to vote is introduced for the first time by Senator A.A. Sargeant of California. The wording is unchanged in 1919, when the amendment finally passes both houses.
  The first International Woman's Rights Congress is held in Paris, France.
1882 Due to subversion by the liquor industry, the suffragists lose electoral battles in Nebraska and Indiana.
1883 Women in the Washington territory are granted full voting rights.
  Prominent suffragists travel to Liverpool, where they form the International Council of Women. At this meeting, the leaders of the National and American associations work together, laying the foundation for a reconciliation between these two groups.
1887 The Supreme Court strikes down the law that enfranchised women in the Washington territory. Meanwhile, Congress denies women in Utah their right to vote. Kansas women win the right to vote in municipal elections.
  Rhode Island becomes the first eastern state to vote on a women's suffrage referendum, but it does not pass.
1890 The NWSA and the AWSA are reunited as the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) under the leadership of Elizabeth Cady Stanton. During this same year, Jane Addams and Ellen Gates Starr found Hull House, a settlement house project in Chicago's 19th Ward. Within one year, there are more than a hundred settlement houses--largely operated by women--throughout the United States. The settlement house movement and the Progressive campaign of which it was a part propelled thousands of college-educated white women and a number of women of color into lifetime careers in social work. It also made women an important voice to be reckoned with in American politics.
  Wyoming was admitted to the Union with its suffrage provision intact.
1891 Ida B. Wells launches her nation-wide anti-lynching campaign after the murder of three black businessmen in Memphis, Tennessee.
1893 As a result of the strategy of Carrie Chapman Catt, Colorado men make their state the second in which women have full voting rights.
  Hannah Greenbaum Solomon founds the National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW) after a meeting of the Jewish Women's Congress at the Columbian Exposition in Chicago, Illinois.
1895 Elizabeth Cady Stanton publishes The Woman's Bible. After its publication, NAWSA moves to distance itself from this venerable suffrage pioneer because many conservative suffragists considered her to be too radical and, thus, potentially damaging to the suffrage campaign. From this time, Stanton--who had resigned as NAWSA president in 1892--was no longer invited to sit on the stage at NAWSA conventions.
  The New York State Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage begins.
1896 The National American association hires Ida Husted Harper to launch an expensive suffrage campaign in California, which ultimately fails.
  Mary Church Terrell, Ida B. Wells-Barnett, Margaret Murray Washington, Fanny Jackson Coppin, Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, Charlotte Forten Grimké, and former slave Harriet Tubman meet in Washington, D.C. to form the National Association of Colored Women (NACW).
  Catt organizes her second successful western campaign; Idaho enfranchises women because Catt manages to sever the suffrage issue from the eastern movement and prohibition.
  Utah becomes a state, and Utah women regain the vote.
1897 The National American association begins publishing the National Suffrage Bulletin, edited by Catt.
1900 Susan B. Anthony retires as the president of the National American and, to the surprise of many, recommends Carrie Chapman Catt as her successor; Catt is elected.
1902 Women from 10 nations meet in Washington, D.C. to plan an international effort for suffrage. Clara Barton is among the distinguished speakers.
  New Hampshire's men vote down a women's suffrage referendum.
1903 Mary Dreier, Rheta Childe Dorr, Leonora O'Reilly, and others form the Women's Trade Union League of New York, an organization of middle- and working-class women dedicated to unionization for working women and to woman suffrage. This group later became a nucleus of the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union (ILGWU).
1904 Dissidents from the International Council of Women form the more aggressive International Women Suffrage Alliance.
  Because Catt must attend to her dying husband, Rev. Dr. Anna Howard Shaw takes over as president of the National American.
1906 Stanton's daughter, Harriot Stanton Blatch, returns from England and is appalled by the National American association's conservatism. She responds by forming the Equality League of Self Supporting Women, to reach out to the working class.
1909 The Women's Trade Union League coordinates a large strike by 20,000 women workers in New York's garment district. Wealthy women support the strike with a boycott. Through strikes, working class women connect with suffrage movement.
1910 Emma Smith DeVoe organizes a grass-roots campaign in Washington State, where women win full enfranchisement.
  Blatch's Equality League changes its name to the Women's Political Union.
  Emulating the grassroots tactics of labor activists, they organize America's first large-scale suffrage parade, which is held in New York City.
1911 With little help from the National American, California women win full voting rights.
1912 Alaska's territorial legislature enfranchises women.
  Abigail Scott Duniway dissuades National American members from involving themselves in Oregon's grassroots suffrage campaign; Oregon women win the vote.
  The Arizona territory becomes a state that includes women as voters.
  Kansas enfranchises women.
  Presidential candidates court the female vote for the first time. Democrat Woodrow Wilson wins the election.
1913 Suffragists Alice Paul and Lucy Burns organize the Congressional Union, later known as the National Women's Party (1916). Borrowing the tactics of the radical, militant Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU) in England, members of the Woman's Party participate in hunger strikes, picket the White House, and engage in other forms of civil disobedience to publicize the suffrage cause.
  Alice Paul She becomes the leader of the Congressional Union (CU), a militant branch of the National American association.
  Kate Gordon organizes the Southern States Woman Suffrage Conference, where suffragists plan to lobby state legislatures for laws that will enfranchise white women only.
  Illinois grants women a new form of partial suffrage by allowing them to vote only in presidential elections.
1914 The National Federation of Women's Clubs--which by this time included more than two million white women and women of color throughout the United States--formally endorses the suffrage campaign.
  The Senate votes on the "Susan B. Anthony" amendment, but it does not pass.
  Nevada and Montana enfranchise women.
  The CU alienates leaders of the National American association by campaigning against pro-suffrage Democrats in the congressional elections.
1915 Anna Howard Shaw's tactical conservatism culminates in a loss of support from the National American members. She resigns and Catt replaces her as president.
1916 Woodrow Wilson promises that the Democratic Party Platform will endorse suffrage. Meanwhile, the CU transforms itself into the National Woman's Party.
  Montana elects suffragist Jeanette Rankin to the House of Representatives.
  NAWSA president Carrie Chapman Catt unveils her "winning plan" for suffrage victory at a convention in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Catt's plan required the coordination of activities by a vast cadre of suffrage workers in both state and local associations.
1917 Police begin arresting women who are picketing outside the White House. Some, including Paul and Lucy Burns, go on hunger strike while in jail; their militancy earns them sympathy from some quarters and disdain from others. The U.S. enters W.W.I. Under the leadership of Catt, the National American association aligns itself with the war effort in order to gain support for women's suffrage.
  The Arkansas legislature grants women the right to vote in primary, but not general elections. The result of this partial suffrage is that white women win the vote, but black women do not.
  Five Midwestern states and Rhode Island grant women the right to vote in presidential elections only.
  New York State is the first eastern state to fully enfranchise women.
1918 President Wilson issues a statement supporting a federal amendment to grant woman's suffrage.
  Rankin opens debate in the House on a new suffrage amendment, which passes.
  President Wilson addresses the Senate in support of the Nineteenth Amendment, but it fails to win the required 2/3 majority of Senate votes.
1919 Michigan, Oklahoma, and South Dakota join the full suffrage states.
  The National American association holds its convention in St. Louis, where Catt rallies to transform the association into the League of Women Voters.
  For a third time, the House votes to enfranchise women. The Senate finally passes the Nineteenth Amendment, and suffragists begin their ratification campaign.
1920 In the case of Hawk vs. Smith, anti-suffragists file suit against the Ohio legislature, but the Supreme Court upholds the constitutionality of Ohio's ratification process.
  Despite the political subversion of anti-suffragists, particularly in Tennessee, three quarters of state legislatures ratify the Nineteenth Amendment on 26 August. American women win full voting rights.
  The Great War (World War I) 1918-1920 intervenes to slow down the suffrage campaign as some--but not all--suffragists decide to shelve their suffrage activism in favor of "war work." In the long run, however, this decision proves to be a prudent one as it adds yet another reason to why women deserve the vote.
  The Nineteenth Amendment is ratified. Its victory accomplished, NAWSA ceases to exist, but its organization becomes the nucleus of the League of Women Voters.
1923 The National Woman's Party first proposes the Equal Rights Amendment to eliminate discrimination on the basis of gender. It has never been ratified.

The National Women's Hall of Fame is founded in Seneca Falls New York. the small village where the women's Suffragist Movement all began. The Hall is home to exhibits, artifacts of historical interest, a research library and office.

The National Women's Hall of Fame, holds as its mission:

"To honor in perpetuity these women, citizens of the United States of America whose contributions to the arts, athletics, business, education, government, the humanities, philanthropy and science, have been the greatest value for the development of their country."

The Hall is a shrine to some of the greatest women in the history of this country and a tribute that grows annually with each induction ceremony as we learn to appreciate more about the wonderful contributions that women make to our civilization.


On August 20th, President Donald Trump pardoned Susan B. Anthony, the women’s suffragist who was arrested after voting illegally in 1872 and fined $100.

On Aug. 26, we celebrated the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which granted women the right to vote.

American presidents are elected not directly by the people, but by the people's electors.
This is prescribed in the U.S. Constitution.
The Electoral College was created by the framers of the U.S. Constitution as an alternative to electing the president by popular vote or by Congress. Each state elects the number of representatives to the Electoral College that is equal to its number of Senators—two from each state—plus its number of delegates in the House of Representatives.
The District of Columbia, which has no voting representation in Congress, has three Electoral College votes. There are currently 538 electors in the Electoral College; 270 votes are needed to win the presidential election.
On Election Day, when American voters mark their ballots for their favorite presidential candidate, they are, in actuality, voting for a group of state electors. These electors are pledged to vote for that candidate in the Electoral College, the body of representatives that really elects the president and vice president.
The only exceptions are the states of Maine and Nebraska, where two electors are chosen by statewide popular vote and the remainder by the popular vote within each congressional district.
Consequently, political parties must consider each state to be a separate race, keeping in mind that it is not the national total of votes that counts; it is how many electoral votes a candidate receives that will determine who goes to the White House. Candidates must run both a national campaign in which their messages are carried by the country's mass media and more targeted state races that address local and regional issues and concerns.
Many states, by virtue of their demographics or economic profile, will predictably favor a certain candidate or party. In recent years, there has been a wide discussion of so-called red and blue states, states that have tended to vote in majority for Republicans (red) or Democrats (blue).
The maps illustrating these distinctions show most blue states along the coasts and most red states in the south and center of the country. Those states that are too hard to predict -- known as battleground or swing states -- tend to be the focus of many of the resources of both campaigns.
Battleground states, where the candidates are currently running within a few percentage points of each other, can change from election to election or even during a single election season. In 2004 there were 10 battleground states: Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Iowa, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Oregon, West Virginia and Wisconsin. Together, these 10 states represented 116 of the 270 electoral votes needed to win.
Campaign strategists must calculate how much time and money a candidate needs to spend in any given state in order to have the best chance of winning. In 2004, President George Bush and Senator John Kerry made numerous visits to battleground states like Pennsylvania and Ohio during the campaign.
In addition to the presidential candidates themselves, their vice presidential running mates, family members and other surrogates such as popular local politicians made speeches on behalf of the campaigns in the various states.
In a close race, voter turnout is decisive, so both campaigns organize get-out-the-vote efforts to identify supporters and either get them to the polls on Election Day or encourage them to vote early by mailing in absentee ballots. Both parties also have active voter registration programs aimed especially at communities likely to favor their candidates.
The winner of the Electoral College vote usually is the candidate who has won the popular vote. However, it is possible to win the presidency without winning the popular vote. The most recent case occurred in the 2000 presidential election when President Bush won the Electoral College vote - 271 to 266 - after losing the popular vote to then Vice President Al Gore.
Two other presidents - Rutherford B. Hayes in 1876 and Benjamin Harrison in 1888 - became president without winning the popular vote. In the 1824 election between John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson, Jackson won the popular vote but neither won a majority of Electoral College votes.
Adams secured the presidency only after the election was decided by vote of the House of Representatives, a procedure provided for in the Constitution when no candidate wins a majority of the Electoral College.
Source: US Department of State


The President and Vice-President are elected every four years.

They must be at least 35 years of age, they must be native-born citizens of the United States

They must have been residents of the U.S. for at least 14 years.

A person cannot be elected to a third term as President.

President Party Term Vice-President
1. George Washington (1732-1799) None, Federalist 1789-1797 John Adams
2. John Adams (1735-1826) Federalist 1797-1801 Thomas Jefferson
3. Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) Democratic-Republican 1801-1809 Aaron Burr, George Clinton
4. James Madison (1751-1836) Democratic-Republican 1809-1817 George Clinton, Elbridge Gerry
5. James Monroe (1758-1831) Democratic-Republican 1817-1825 Daniel Tompkins
6. John Quincy Adams (1767-1848) Democratic-Republican 1825-1829 John Calhoun
7. Andrew Jackson (1767-1845) Democrat 1829-1837 John Calhoun, Martin van Buren
8. Martin van Buren (1782-1862) Democrat 1837-1841 Richard Johnson
9. William H. Harrison (1773-1841) Whig 1841 John Tyler
10. John Tyler (1790-1862) Whig 1841-1845 None
11. James K. Polk (1795-1849) Democrat 1845-1849 George Dallas
12. Zachary Taylor (1784-1850) Whig 1849-1850 Millard Fillmore
13. Millard Fillmore (1800-1874) Whig 1850-1853 None
14. Franklin Pierce (1804-1869) Democrat 1853-1857 William King
15. James Buchanan (1791-1868) Democrat 1857-1861 John Breckinridge
16. Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) Republican 1861-1865 Hannibal Hamlin, Andrew Johnson
17. Andrew Johnson (1808-1875) National Union 1865-1869  
18. Ulysses S. Grant (1822-1885) Republican 1869-1877 Schuyler Colfax
19. Rutherford Hayes (1822-1893) Republican 1877-1881 William Wheeler
20. James Garfield (1831-1881) Republican 1881 Chester Arthur
21. Chester Arthur (1829-1886) Republican 1881-1885 None
22. Grover Cleveland (1837-1908) Democrat 1885-1889 Thomas Hendriks
23. Benjamin Harrison (1833-1901) Republican 1889-1893 Levi Morton
24. Grover Cleveland (1837-1908) Democrat 1893-1897 Adlai Stevenson
25. William McKinley (1843-1901) Republican 1897-1901 Garret Hobart, Theodore Roosevelt
26. Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919) Republican 1901-1909 Charles Fairbanks
27. William Taft (1857-1930) Republican 1909-1913 James Sherman
28. Woodrow Wilson (1856-1924) Democrat 1913-1921 Thomas Marshall
29. Warren Harding (1865-1923) Republican 1921-1923 Calvin Coolidge
30. Calvin Coolidge (1872-1933) Republican 1923-1929 Charles Dawes
31. Herbert C. Hoover (1874-1964) Republican 1929-1933 Charles Curtis
32. Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1882-1945) Democrat 1933-1945 John Garner, Henry Wallace,
Harry S. Truman
33. Harry S Truman (1884-1972) Democrat 1945-1953 Alben Barkley
34. Dwight David Eisenhower (1890-1969) Republican 1953-1961 Richard Milhous Nixon
35. John Fitzgerald Kennedy (1917-1963) Democrat 1961-1963 Lyndon Johnson
36. Lyndon Baines Johnson (1908-1973) Democrat 1963-1969 Hubert Humphrey
37. Richard Milhous Nixon (1913-1994) Republican 1969-1974 Spiro Agnew, Gerald R. Ford
38. Gerald R. Ford (1913- 2006) Republican 1974-1977 Nelson Rockefeller
39. James (Jimmy) Earl Carter, Jr. (1924- ) Democrat 1977-1981 Walter Mondale
40. Ronald Wilson Reagan (1911- 2004) Republican 1981-1989 George H. W. Bush
41. George H. W. Bush (1924-2018) Republican 1989-1993 James Danforth (Dan) Quayle
42. William (Bill) Jefferson Clinton (1946- ) Democrat 1993-2001 Al Gore
43. George W. Bush (1946- ) Republican 2001- 2009 Richard Cheney
44. Barack Obama (1961- ) Democrat 2009-2017 Joseph Biden
45. Donald Trump (1946- ) Republican 2017-2021 Mike Pence
46. Joseph Biden (1942 - ) Democrat 2021 Kamala Harris

Note: The Republican party was renamed the Union party for the 1864 election. Therefore, Lincoln also served under the Union party label. For Washington's initial election, political parties were not in existence. He became associated with the Federalist party after he was in office.

"Give us the ballot and we will quietly and nonviolently, without rancor or bitterness, implement the Supreme Court's decision of May 17, 1954." - Martin Luther King Jr.

"Democracy is the only system that persists in asking the powers that be whether they are the powers that ought to be." - Sydney J. Harris

"America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves." - Abraham Lincoln

"So long as I do not firmly and irrevocably possess the right to vote I do not possess myself. I cannot make up my mind - it is made up for me. I cannot live as a democratic citizen, observing the laws I have helped to enact - I can only submit to the edict of others." - Martin Luther King Jr.

"The duties or responsibilities of a citizen in a Democratic Society can be separated into two groups: mandatory responsibilities, such as paying taxes; and duties not demanded by law, such as voting." - Gary Ryan Blair

"Under every view of the subject, it seems indispensable that the mass of the citizens should not be without a voice in making the laws which they are to obey, and in choosing the magistrate who are to administer them." - James Madison

"I stand for universal suffrage; and as a matter of fundamental principle, do not recognize the right of society to limit on any ground of race or sex." - Susan B. Anthony

"The right of voting for representatives is the primary right by which other rights are protected. To take away this right is to reduce man to a state of slavery." - Thomas Paine

"If women have no voice, nor vote in the electing of representatives, they do not enjoy liberty, but are absolutely enslaved to men who have votes and their representatives." - Susan B Anthony

"Your denial of my citizen's right to vote, is the denial of my right of ... as one of the taxed, the denial of my right to a trial by a jury of my peers as an offender against law, therefore, the denial of my sacred rights to life, liberty, property.” - Susan B. Anthony

"Robbed of the fundamental privilege of citizenship, I am degraded from the status of a citizen to that of a subject; and not only myself individually, but all of my sex, are, by your honor's verdict, doomed to political subjection under this, so-called, form of government." - Susan B. Anthony

"Voting is a sustained obligation that accompanies and protects the liberties we enjoy in a democratic society." - Gary Ryan Blair

"Nobody will ever deprive the American people of the right to vote except the American people themselves and the only way they could do that is by not voting." - Franklin D. Roosevelt

"Now more than ever the people are responsible for the character of their Congress. If that body be ignorant, reckless, and corrupt, it is because the people tolerate ignorance, recklessness, and corruption." - James Garfield, "A Century of Congress" published in Atlantic, July 1877

"If the citizens neglect their duty and place unprincipled men in office, the government will soon be corrupted; laws will be made not for the public good so much as for the selfish or local purposes." - Daniel Webster

"Should things go wrong at any time, the people will set them to rights by the peaceable exercise of their elective rights". - Thomas Jefferson

"The vote is the most powerful instrument ever devised by man for breaking down injustice and destroying the terrible walls which imprison men because they are different from other men." - President Lyndon B. Johnson

"Bad officials are elected by good citizens who do not vote." - George Jean Nathan

"A citizen of America will cross the ocean to fight for democracy but won't cross the street to vote in a national election." - Bill Vaughan

"To make democracy work, we must be a notion of participants, not simply observers. One who does not vote has no right to complain." - Louis L'Amour writer, best-selling author, 1908

"The ballot is stronger than the bullet." - Abraham Lincoln

"Voting is a civic sacrament." - Theodore Hesburgh (American Clergyman, University President)

"The ballot box is the surest arbiter of disputes among free men." - James Buchanan

"American youth attributes much more importance to arriving at driver's license age than at voting age" - Marshall McLuhan

"Those who stay away from the election think that one vote will do no good. 'Tis but one step more to think one vote will do no harm." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

"People often say that, in a democracy, decisions are made by a majority of the people. Of course, that is not true. Decisions are made by a majority of those who make themselves heard and who vote - a very different thing." - Walter H. Judd

"Always vote for principle, though you may vote alone, and you may cherish the sweetest reflection that your vote is never lost." - John Quincy Adams

"To make democracy work, we must be a nation of participants, not simply observers. One who does not vote has no right to complain." - Louis L'Amour

"A great democracy must be progressive or it will soon cease to be a great democracy" - Theodore Roosevelt

"The ignorance of one voter in a democracy impairs the security of all." - John Fitzgerald Kennedy

"The future of this republic is in the hands of the American voter." - Dwight D. Eisenhower

"Personally, I believe that our American system works as long as you participate in it. You must vote and make your voice heard. Otherwise you will be left out." - Jaramillo, Mari-Luci Educator, Diplomat

"Lower voter participation is a silent threat to our democracy...It under-represents young people, the poor, the disabled, those with little education, minorities and you and me." - Nancy Neuman

"Impress upon children the truth that the exercise of the elective franchise is a social duty of as solemn a nature as man can be called to perform; that a man may not innocently trifle with his vote; that every elector is a trustee as well for others as himself and that every measure he supports has an important bearing on the interests of others as well as on his own." - Daniel Webster

"Are you willing to spend time studying the issues, making yourself aware, and then conveying that information to family and friends? Will you resist the temptation to get a government handout for your community? Realize that the doctor's fight against socialized medicine is your fight. We can't socialize the doctors without socializing the patients. Recognize that government invasion of public power is eventually an assault upon your own business. If some among you fear taking a stand because you are afraid of reprisals from customers, clients, or even the government, recognize that you are just feeding the crocodile hoping he'll eat you last." - President Ronald Reagan

"The hallmark of democracy is one person, one vote." - Chief Justice Earl Warren

Gary Ryan Blair can be reached for speaking, coaching, and media requests at 877-462-5748 or on our Contact page.

© Copyright Gary Ryan Blair, All Rights Reserved




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