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U.S. News
15: Right to vote shall not be abridged because of color or previous servitude

Wednesday, November 27, 2002


While the 14th Amendment guaranteed equality of citizenship to former slaves, power over elections resided solely with the states. Even our national elections are, after all, a series of state and local elections to national office. Congress acted in this amendment, ratified in 1870, to assure that right to vote for every citizen, although its language was clearly aimed at the time to prevent voting restrictions targeted at freed slaves and their descendants.

Born and raised in Atlanta, Mattie Hightower is the granddaughter of a slave and never cast a vote until she arrived in Pittsburgh in 1940. Her parents voted, but only because Congress acted to break down the state-level barriers that kept out black people. Today, Mother Hightower, as the 104-year-old widow is called, votes every year. Ordinarily, she walks to her polling place at Grace Memorial Church Hall in the Hill District where, after voting, she is served a lunch by the staff there. "God has been good to us," says Hightower. "Now I'm 104 years old."

Amendment XV:

Section 1. 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 race, color, or previous condition of servitude.

Section 2. The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

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