Since the 2020 election season has started, I’ve got a trivia question for you:
Who was President of the United States when all Native Americans were given the right to vote?
A.) Dwight D. Eisenhower
B.) Theodore Roosevelt
C.) Richard M. Nixon
D.) Calvin Coolidge
No peeking now—just give it your best shot! C’mon, you can do it! Got it? Made your choice?
The correct answer is C, Richard M. Nixon.
Here’s the history behind it: In 1906 (Theodore Roosevelt), the Burke Act granted citizenship to Native Americans who farmed their own land and lived off the reservations, and in 1924, The Indian Citizenship Act (Calvin Coolidge) granted all Native Americans citizenship. However, many states did not recognize these acts as granting voting rights because, at that time, the Constitution gave each individual state the right to decide who is eligible to vote. As they did with African-Americans, many states passed requirements like poll taxes and literacy tests in order to prevent Native Americans from voting.
In 1957, under Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Solicitor General took action to ensure that the States removed these impediments, and that year is usually referenced as the year voting rights were given to all Native Americans. However, discrimination persisted in Colorado, where any tribal member who lived on a reservation was not allowed to vote until 1970, when President Nixon signed an extension of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.