As signed and ratified, the Constitution makes no central policy on voting rights, instead leaving the decision to individual States.
The Naturalization Law of 1790 explicitly states that only "free white" immigrants who have lived in the country for 2 years can become naturalized citizens.
Naturalization Law amended
The Naturalization Law is amended to require free white immigrants to reside in the country for 14 years before being eligible for citizenship.
Louisiana becomes the first state to require immigrants to become citizens before being allowed to vote
Spragins v. Houghton
The U.S. Supreme Court rules to uphold the Illinois Constitution, which allows suffrage for white male 'inhabitants' over the age of 21 who have resided in the state for at least six months.
The Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo
The Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo, which ends the American-Mexican War, grants citizenship to all Mexicans residing in the the newly acquired territories of California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. Voting rights, however, are not granted; ballot materials are still given exclusively in English, and there is widespread intimidation of Mexican citizens at the polls.
Non-citizens allowed to vote in some states
In 1850, Michigan becomes the first state to grant non-citizens the right to vote. Many other states follow Michigan's example, but as time goes on the policy loses support, and by 1926 it is not permitted in any state.
The first literacy test is adopted in Connecticut as a way to prevent Irish-Catholic immigrants from voting
Massachussetts votes in favor of a Constitutional amendment that requires immigrants to reside in the state for two years after being granted citizenship before being allowed to vote.
The US Congress passes what was the thought of as the first comprehensive immigration act.
The Homestead Act made many acres of land available for settlement by anyone except those who had taken up arms against the U.S. government, including immigrants. However, this same year, California passed an act discriminating against Chinese immigrants in order to "protect white labor." It imposed a tax on all Chinese immigrants attempting to do business in the state.
Civil Rights Act of 1866
The Civil Rights Act of 1866 gives citizenship to all those born on American soil but excludes American Indians.
Indigenous people are denied the vote
The Oregon Territory Supreme Court rules that American Indians are not citizens as defined by the 14th Amendment and therefore are ineligible to vote.
Minor v. Happersett
The U.S. Supreme Court rules that citizenship and voting are independent of one another.
The Chinese Exclusion Act is passed
The Chinese Exclusion Act prohibits all Chinese immigration to the United States and prevents persons of Chinese descent already in the U.S. from becoming citizens or voting. This is the first time in U.S. History that a bill was passed specifically prohibiting persons of a certain ethnicity from immigrating to the U.S.
Massachusetts sets new restrictions on immigrant voting
In order to restrict immigrant access to the polls, Massachusetts passes a law which requires voters to prove that they have been naturalized citizens for at least 30 days before registering to vote.
New language requirements in Minnesota
Minnesota passes an act to regulate state elections. One section of the new act requires ballots and instructions to be printed in other languages, provided by the Secretary of State.
The Chinese Exclusion Act is renewed by the Geary Act
Originally meant as a 10-year measure, the Chinese Exclusion Act is renewed in 1892 by the Geary Act. This Act also imposes new restrictions on persons of Chinese descent living in the U.S.; any who fail to register and obtain a Certificate of Residence can be deported.
Minnesota prohibits non-citizen suffrage
Minnesota now requires voters to be citizens of the United States at least three months prior to elections. Ballots and elections are still printed in nine languages, including Norwegian.
United States v. Wong Kim Ark
The Supreme Court rules that any person born on U.S. soil is a citizen, with the exception of those born to foreign rulers or diplomats, those born on foreign public ships, those born to enemy forces occupying U.S. territory, and those born on an Indian reservation.
The Naturalization Law is amended again
Under the newly amended law, free white immigrants are only required to reside in the country for 5 years before being eligible for citizenship.
The Naturalization Act of 1906 is passed
Signed into law by President Theodore Roosevelt, the Naturalization Act of 1906 requires immigrants to learn English in order to become naturalized citizens. It is repealed by the Nationality Act of 1940.
The Immigration Act of 1917 (the Asiatic Barred Zone Act) is passed
The Immigration Act of 1917, also known as the Asiatic Barred Zone Act, passes with an overwhelming majority and overrides President Woodrow Wilson’s veto. This act bans specific marginalized groups from entering the country, including members of the LGBT community, people with certain disabilities and those living in poverty - as well as making specific provisions against "polygamists and anarchists". It also bars immigration for people who are over sixteen and illiterate, as well as people from India, Afghanistan, Persia (now Iran), Arabia, parts of Russia and the Ottoman Empire (now parts of Eastern Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East), Southeast Asia, and the Asian-Pacific Islands.
The Immigration Act of 1924 bans those of Asian descent from immigrating to the United States
The Immigration Act of 1924 includes the Oriental Exclusion Act, which bars people who are not eligible for citizenship from immigrating, making it impossible for people deemed non-white to come to the United States. It also makes it impossible for people of Asian heritage to qualify for naturalization or land ownership.
The Indian Citizenship Act
The Indian Citizenship Act gives all American Indians the rights of citizenship, including the right to vote. However, many western states attempt to prevent American Indians voting.
Arkansas is the last state to repeal non-citizen suffrage
Non-citizen suffrage, once common in the United States, is now illegal in all states. The next election cycle, in 1928, is the first American election in over 75 years in which not a single non-citizen cast a ballot.
Executive Order 9066
Signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Executive Order 9066 is the forced internment of 110,000 people of Japanese descent or birth living on the west coast. Over half of those interned are U.S. citizens.
The Chinese Exclusion Act is repealed
Immigrants of Chinese descent are now eligible to become citizens. Immigration from China is also permitted again, but with a yearly limit of 105 persons.
The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 abolishes racial restrictions, making it possible for Asian Americans to be granted citizenship
The Act retains a quota system with only 2,000 immigrants allowed per year from ‘the Asia-Pacific Triangle.’ The Act defines three types of immigrants: those with special skills or relatives of United States citizens who were admitted without quota restrictions, average immigrants, and refugees. The Act also allows the government to deport immigrants or naturalized citizens engaged in subversive activities and allows the government to bar suspected subversives from entering the country. These provisions are mostly aimed at stopping members or former members of the Communist Party from immigrating.
The Immigration Act of 1965
The Immigration Act of 1965, signed by President Lyndon Johnson, abolishes the racist “national origins” quota system, placing Asian immigrant quotas on an equal footing with European nations. Instead of country of origin, a preference system is established that focuses on skills and family relationships with United States residents. This bill still prohibits certain marginalized groups from entering the U.S., such as LGBT immigrants.
Dunn v. Blumstein
In its ruling in Dunn v. Blumstein, the U.S. Supreme Court declares that lengthy or grueling residence requirements for voting in State elections are unconstitutional and suggests that a shorter 30-day residence in the state before the election is preferable.
The Voting Rights Act of 1975
The 1975 Voting Rights Act provides language assistance to minority voters, making it easier for immigrants to vote.
Civil Liberties Act
President Ronald Reagan signs the Civil Liberties Act, apologizing for the internments of 1942 on behalf of the United States government and offering $20,000 to each camp survivor. The legislation admits that government actions were based on "race prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership."
The Diversity Immigrant Visa Program (also known as the Visa Lottery) is established
Intended in part to remedy earlier bans on immigration, the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program rations off visas to persons born in any country which has sent fewer than 50,000 immigrants to the United States over the last five years. A total of 55,000 permanent residence visas are set aside every year for this purpose, and distributed to applicants at random in an annual lottery. Over 13.6 million applications for the program were submitted in 2009.