Blog of Rights

Happy Birthday 19th Amendment!

By James Freedland, ACLU at 5:12pm

As Schoolhouse Rock put it so succinctly:

Oh, we were suffering until suffrage,
Not a woman here could vote, no matter what age,
Then the 19th Amendment struck down that restrictive rule. (Oh yeah!)

It was 88 years ago today that the 19th Amendment of the Constitution was certified, guaranteeing women the right to vote in this country. And this day brings cause to celebrate a huge step towards universal suffrage — or, put more simply, expanding the right to vote to every man and woman in America.


It’s stunning to think of how far we’ve come. In 1919, a woman couldn’t enter a voting booth. In 2008, a woman serves as Secretary of State. A woman serves as Speaker of the House. And America very nearly saw its first woman on the presidential ballot.

In recent years, women have consistently cast a majority of votes in presidential elections. In this exhilarating election year, women are once again poised to represent a greater piece of the electoral pie than men.

But sometimes the appearance of progress fails to tell the whole story.

There are still far too many barriers that stand in the way of truly universal suffrage. According to a census data analysis by Project Vote (PDF), restrictions on the right to vote, like state photo identification laws, are likely to harm women voters (as well as minorities, people with disabilities, and senior citizens) disproportionately.

They found:

  • Women are more than twice as likely as men not to have a drivers’ license.
  • One of every five senior women does not have a license.
  • Of all Americans without a license, over 70 percent are women.

So let’s celebrate today, but never take our eyes off the prize, because we’re not there yet. The obstacles to full voting equality aren’t what they were, but they’re not what they should be: nonexistent. Until that day, we’ll have to keep fighting to end disenfranchising laws and practices that stand in the way of voting equality.


— James Freedland & Rachel Perrone
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