If you are a white American man over the age of 21 who owns property, you are a member of the only group of Americans who has been able to vote since the nation was founded. How small a group is that? There are about 80 million white men over the age of 21 in the United States, or about a quarter of the country. That doesn’t even include consideration of citizenship or property ownership, so it’s a small minority.
Every time an election comes around, we hear about the importance of casting a ballot and how every vote counts. That data point above, though, reinforces another point: The direction of the country depends on those who vote and, in 1787, that meant it depended on the whims of those white men who owned property. Over time, that universe expanded slowly outward, to include every citizen over the age of 18. But depending on your age, gender and ethnicity, that expansion happened either slowly or quickly.
To hammer that point home, we created this interactive look at how long various groups of people have had the ability to vote in the United States. Instead of simply identifying the correct year, though, we decided to look at it as a function of American history.
Assuming you're an adult citizen:
Notice that as you choose options, the percentage updates. Once you’ve entered your own information, try different choices to see how that figure changes.
There are, in some cases, points of uncertainty. For example, did black Americans get the right to vote in 1870, thanks to the 15th Amendment, or did it truly happen only with the passage of the Voting Rights Act nearly a century later? How do we gauge the point at which Hispanic Americans earned that right.
We’ve tried to indicate the points at which any specific group was universally granted the right to vote. Whether there are obstructions to that right in any specific state at this time is not included in our assessment.