“The influence over government must be shared among all the people.”


TIMELINE: The right and responsibility to vote through American history.

Quotes from Jefferson and the Founding Fathers
Quotes from Jefferson and the Founding Fathers

A Closer Look

The Idea

Thomas Jefferson advocated for extending the right to vote beyond just a few members of society.

“It has been thought that corruption is restrained by confining the suffrage to a few of the wealthier of the people: but it would be more effectually restrained by an extension of that to such numbers as would bid defiance to the means of corruption.” 
– Thomas Jefferson, 1785

Making the Idea a Reality

“The times, places and manner of holding elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each state by the legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by law make or alter such regulations.”
- U.S. Constitution, Article I Section 4

Individual state voting laws in early U.S. history varied widely and generally restricted suffrage to those who were white males over 21 with some states imposing such requirements as owning property or passing religious qualifications. Universal white, male suffrage, which Jefferson supported, was a first step in the struggle to broaden the right to vote to all Americans.

How Did Voting Rights Evolve?
How Did Voting Rights Evolve?

The Legacy

While the U.S. Constitution provided the framework for voting rights, extending those rights to all citizens equally has been an endeavor throughout America's history.

Voting History Timeline Collage

Click to view a timeline of key moments in the history of voting and voting rights in America.

Moving Forward

“Should things go wrong at any time, the people will set them right by the peaceable exercise of their elective rights.” - Thomas Jefferson, 1806

A Civic Engagement Initiative sponsored by and in collaboration with The New York Community Trust – The Peter G. Peterson FundPeterson Foundation Logo