Election History Timeline
Nominating a President: Opening It To The People
Until the 1970s, most Americans were not given much of a voice in selecting Presidential nominees. In most states, delegates to the national nominating conventions were chosen by small numbers of leaders and activists of the two major political parties. As a result, most delegates to the conventions were professional politicians who worked out deals behind the scenes in smoke-filled rooms. In 1968, only 17 out of 50 states held Presidential primaries, and Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey gained the Democratic nomination without having won any of them. That could not happen now in a contested race.
This timeline traces the key developments that have given most Americans a chance to take part in the process of choosing our Presidents.
18311832: The first conventions are held to nominate Presidential candidates of the major political parties. Delegates to the conventions are chosen by state and local party organizations.
1868: The 14th Amendment to the Constitution gives U.S. citizenship to former slaves.
1869: Wyoming Territory gives women the right to vote. This right continues when Wyoming becomes a state in 1890, but does not extend to U.S. Presidential elections.
1870: The 15th Amendment states that adult male citizens of all races have the right to vote.
1899: Various states introduce poll (head) taxes as a requirement to vote. Opponents of these measures say that the taxes are meant to keep poor people, particularly African Americans, from voting.
1912: Twelve states hold the first Presidential preference primaries of the Republican and Democratic parties.
1920: The 19th Amendment gives women in all states the right to vote in all elections.
1924: The Indian Citizenship Act gives Native Americans the right to vote.
1927: The U.S. Supreme Court rules that a Texas state law preventing African Americans from voting in primary elections is unconstitutional.
1932: The U.S. Supreme Court rules that a local Democratic Party regulation designed to keep African Americans from voting in primary elections is illegal.
1944: The U.S. Supreme Court rules that political parties may not take any action whatsoever to prevent African Americans from voting in primary elections.
1964: The 24th Amendment outlaws poll-tax requirements for federal elections.
1965: The Voting Rights Act bans all tests used to keep African Americans from voting.
1971: The 26th Amendment lowers the voting age to 18.
19721992: As a result of rule changes to open the nominating process to more people, the number of states holding primary elections increases from 17 to 38 over two decades.
1996: The front-runners in the Presidential election are President Bill Clinton and Republican candidate Bob Dole.