Visual History of Voting in the United States

Updated on Sep 22, 2020.   Originally added on Sep 10, 2020 by Kathy Pinna
Most Americans have their first voting experience in school - class president, vice-president, and other officers are chosen every year. So begins their foray into democracy.

In the beginning of our democracy, only white men who were property owners could vote. In the succeeding decades, African-Americans and women were added to the Constitution, giving a voice to those who were previously left out. And yet, many do not choose to exercise their right. In 1828, 57.6% of those eligible voted, in 1876 a high of 81.8% men voted. Since then, there has been a steady decline in those who have participated. In 2016, the voting age population was 250+ million but those who turned out to vote numbered a mere 138+ million - only 55.5% of those eligible. If you think that this is a low percentage, it was higher than the previous half century when the percentage hovered around 50%.


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Visual History of Voting in the United States

1944 Maryland

In the 1944 general election in Maryland, this photo shows a man casting his vote. Interesting voting booth - the curtain is pulled around his body?

Men Selling Votes

In this undated photo - perhaps the 1920s? - four men were arrested on suspicion of selling votes. Luckily, this rarely happens today.

1952 - Being brought up on Patriotism

Is this a form of "brainwashing"? If so, this baby grew up to always exercise his patriotic duty!

1924 Presidential Election

Lined up to vote in the 1924 election, it looks like only one woman decided to vote. Lines look quite different today, almost 100 years later.

Local election, 1940s

Casting a paper ballot in the 1940s. The first paper ballot is thought to have been cast in Rome circa 139 BCE.

Voting Machine for the House of Representative


Similar to an adding machine, this voting machine did the same job in less than two weeks - when it used to take more than 3 months. Greater accuracy was assured in counting votes with the Jurgensen-designed machine.

1940 Voting

No lines, no waiting

In 1940 North Dakota, there are only 4 cars at the schoolhouse. But based on the landscape, they had to drive a far ways to vote.

1940 Utah

These farmers are voting for "the caretaker of the stallion" at an FSA meeting in 1940. Who knows what the caretaker of the stallion is?

Voting Machines was BIG BUSINESS in 1922

So many voting machines! It seems like everyone and anyone, in a variety of venues, was trying to invent a new voting machine in the 20th century. Everyone wanted to make it easier to vote and quicker to tally the results.

Thomas Edison's 1869 voting machine

Since politicians often used a slow vote to delay or halt the progress of a new piece of legislation, Edison's invention for the House of Representatives was kiboshed. It was his first patent and the lack of success didn't deter him. He did, however, vow to “Never waste time inventing things that people would not want to buy.”

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