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2020 Civics Contest

The Right to Vote:  Milestone Anniversaries

The right to vote is one of our democracy’s most cherished civil rights. Voting is how we choose our leaders and express our support or opposition to government policies.  The year 2020 marks the 150th anniversary of the ratification of the 15th Amendment and 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment.

Together, these two amendments dramatically changed America’s political landscape, more than doubling the size of the electorate and granting the vote to millions of citizens who had previously been denied access to the ballot because of their race or gender.

The 15th Amendment was ratified in 1870, one of three amendments to the Constitution enacted after the Civil War aimed at attaining equality for recently emancipated slaves.  The 15th Amendment provides that the right to vote may not be denied “on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.”

Immediately following the passage of the 15th Amendment, many state and local governments took overt steps to impose legal barriers to the ballot that targeted minority voters, such as the imposition of poll taxes that required voters to pay a fee in order to cast their ballots. Other states enacted literacy tests and “civility tests” to dissuade or inhibit minority voter participation.

Ratified in 1920, the 19th Amendment guarantees that the right to vote “shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.” Its passage granted the right to vote to women who were United States citizens. It took several generations before women and men voted in equal numbers, but the 19th Amendment paved the way for women to assert themselves in the electoral process and in politics generally.


2020 Civics Contest Flyer
Essay and Video Contest Rules
2020 NJCHS Voting Rights Pamphlet
This pamphlet covers key points in the history of voting in the U.S. and the court cases and state actions highlighted as part of the contest.