When was the last time you voted? Of course, if you’re under 18, you’ve never voted in a local, state or national election.

But that doesn’t mean you haven’t voted at other times. Perhaps you have voted on an issue in your classroom at school.

And what about at home? Has your family ever voted on what to do for fun on a Sunday afternoon? Maybe you’ve even voted for your favorite song by calling a local radio station.

There are many people who believe that the right to vote — called "suffrage" — is the most important right that Americans have. What do you think?

Did you know that there are many places in the world where citizens do not have the right to vote?

Today, all American citizens who are 18 or older have the right to vote in local, state and national elections. When people vote, they make their voices heard and help to choose the leaders who will represent them in local, state and national governments.

You might be surprised to learn that some people have not always had the right to vote in America.

For example, women did not receive the right to vote until 1920. Of course, there are many places around the world where women still do not have the right to vote.

In America, the fight for women’s suffrage was a long battle. Activists, including Susan B. Anthony, Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, fought for nearly 100 years to win the right to vote.

Their efforts began in the decades before the Civil War. Although the movement gained some attention early on, it lost its momentum when the country became focused on the Civil War.

After the Civil War, the 15th Amendment to the Constitution gave African-American men the right to vote in 1870. It would be another 20 years before a couple of western states — Idaho and Utah — gave women the right to vote just before the end of the 19th century.

The women’s suffrage movement continued to move slowly, though, as it encountered plenty of opposition from groups who did not want to extend the right to vote to women. Although the women’s suffrage movement saw its progress slowed by another war — World War I — it also used that war and women’s work on behalf of the war effort to argue in favor of women’s suffrage.

Finally, on August 26, 1920, the 19th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified (approved), giving American women the right to vote. This was an important step in securing equal rights for all Americans.

Today, many people take the right to vote for granted. In recent national elections, as few as 51 percent of eligible voters have voted in elections.

This means that only about half of the people able to vote are choosing who will govern everyone. It’s a hard-won right of U.S. citizens. Will you do your part and vote when you have the chance?


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