The Promise of the 19th Amendment

100 years ago today, the 19th Amendment took effect after being ratified by the state of Tennessee just eight days earlier.

The Amendment’s simple, straightforward language proclaims:

The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex. Congress shall have power to enforce this Article by appropriate legislation.

This was, and remains to this day, an historically important step forward in fulfilling the potential of American democracy. And at the Environmental Voter Project -- a nonprofit that is laser focused on getting non-voters to start voting -- we think it’s incredibly important to celebrate this momentous anniversary.

But we must also recognize that the suffragettes’ work was incomplete and remains unfinished. For the last 100 years, the promise of the 19th Amendment has remained unfulfilled for millions of women of color, and the United States still denies basic voting rights to tens of millions of Americans each year, including:

  1. For much of the 20th century, Jim Crow laws gutted the 19th Amendment, leaving millions of women (and men) of color without any voting rights.
     
  2. Black, Indigenous, people of color, poor people, and young people continue to face sustained voter suppression efforts, including reduced polling locations, enormous voter file purges, discriminatory voter ID laws, and biased signature-matching rules.
     
  3. 6.1 million people with felony convictions are denied the right to vote, including 1 in 13 Black Americans of voting age -- a rate more than four times greater than that of non-Black Americans.

In short, tens of millions of Americans remain disenfranchised, and the promise of the 19th Amendment remains unfulfilled.

All of us still have an enormous amount of work to do, and at the Environmental Voter Project, we will continue to work every day to help people vote, always mindful of the fact that we are building upon the work of the suffragettes and countless other Americans who dedicated -- and continue to dedicate -- their lives to expanding voting access.

Thank you to all who join us in this fight.