Partial Suffrage, Part 3 | Prairie Public Broadcasting

Partial Suffrage, Part 3

Mar 25, 2020


By this date in 1920, 35 of the 36 states needed had ratified the 19th Amendment. Some states had already granted full or partial suffrage. North Dakota was one of 12 that had granted partial suffrage, and as a result, women were able to participate in their first presidential primary. A court ruling found that women could also run for election as delegate to national party conventions, and two women were on the ballot for those positions.


Yet some questions remained about the logistics of women voting. Assistant Attorney General F. E. Packard noted that it wasn’t clear how to establish party registration for women, though he thought that if the 19th Amendment was ratified by enough states prior to the primary, all laws connected to “the qualifications, registration and voting of men electors would apply without additional legislation …”


But that didn’t happen in time for the primary. And, there was even concern that the amendment might not be ratified in time for the general election—or at all. West Virginia had barely approved ratification on March 10th, becoming the 34th state. Washington became the 35th on March 22nd, but Delaware’s bid to become the deciding 36th state failed on June 2nd.


Moreover, a report out of Washington cautioned that even if the 19th amendment was fully ratified before November, some women could be still be unable to vote unless changes were made in some registration laws. Registration closed in Georgia by the first of May, and they closed in Rhode Island by the end of June. Other states required paid-up taxes, and some had a poll tax to consider. Such rules and regulations would need to be examined. 


In North Dakota, the women voted in the primary under the policies explained in this quote from the Bismarck Tribune: 


“Women who were registered in the election of 1918, or who were registered by reason of participation in the primary election of 1918 are on the poll lists and are fully qualified to vote. The woman whose husband is a constant voter, and whose husband is registered, will not be required to swear in her vote. Women not registered and not falling in the second list will be obliged to swear in their vote, accomplished on the affidavit of two property owners of the precinct in which she resides.”


Dakota Datebook by Sarah Walker