And, as it’s been said often, every vote counts. Though approximately 150 million citizens are qualified to vote, few register and even fewer actually vote. Yet thousands of people have fought for this right through the centuries, both in war and within courts and legislatures. Below lists just a few of the high points on this journey.
The road to our right to vote
1776 – After signing of the Declaration of Independence, voting was restricted to white, property-owning, Protestant men.
1856 – All white men in the United States were allowed to vote.
1869-70 – The Fifteenth Amendment reached out to guarantee this right to all male citizens regardless of “race, color, or previous condition of servitude.”
1919-20 – The Nineteenth Amendment guaranteed the right to vote to all citizens, whatever their gender.
1948 – Native Americans could now vote as the last of state laws denying these rights were overturned.
1965 – The Voting Rights Act became law to prohibit election practices that deny citizens the vote on the basis of race.
Unfortunately, in recent years there have been some attempts to make voting less accessible by carving away at the Voting Rights Act of 1965, shortening early voting periods, and many states have, for the first time, mandated specific types of photo identification (a student’s college photo ID is not valid in Texas but a gun license is, for example).
The Texas requirements were found unconstitutional earlier this year by the United States Disctrict Court for Southern District of Texas. That ruling is on appeal now to the 5th Circuit. In an interim ruling on October 18th, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Texas voter ID law can remain in effect for the November 4, 2014 election, but the full appeal will work its way through the federal courts after the election. Justice Ginsberg, in a blistering dissent, found the Texas law may disenfranchise thousands of eligible voters in Texas.
U.S. voters have great power in voting. This is how we tell our representatives what is important to us and it’s the only way that carries such weight. Because of the impact of each vote, it is our responsibility to understand the issues and know the ideas each candidate represents. Our vote can change history.
We can make a difference
• Be informed. Study the candidates and issues before voting.
• Be involved. Know what is going on in your community, in your state, and in your country.
• Be a leader. Remind others to vote.
• Be a voter. Everyone 18 or older has the right, the privilege, and the responsibility to vote in every local, state, and federal election.
Protect the right to vote – not only for yourself, but for your fellow Americans. Support laws that make it easier, not harder to vote. For over 200 years, Americans have exercised their right to vote. Be part of history – cast your ballot tomorrow, Tuesday, November 4th!