The Founding Fathers made a lot of mistakes when they drafted the United States Constitution. Some of these were the result of extremely difficult compromises, and some of them were just, well, mistakes.
The biggest and most consequential mistake, one could argue, was the decision not to guarantee the right to vote to anyone. Suffrage was treated as a privilege reserved exclusively for property-owning white men, but it was not enshrined as an inalienable right in the Constitution.
Instead, these men placed power in the hands of the states, which is one reason the right to vote in the US has expanded and contracted over time with continuous battles over voter ID laws, literacy tests, poll taxes, and other measures designed to keep specific groups, like women and African Americans, from voting.
It’s difficult to overstate the price — moral and political — we’ve paid for this mistake. But a new book by American University history professor Allan Lichtman does a nice job of explaining it. The Embattled Vote in America is a sweeping look at the history of voting rights in the US, focusing on the constant struggle to extend suffrage in this country.