Election day has arrived, and as it happens every 4 years, this year is a Presidential election. A polarizing one at that. Each major party candidate has enough baggage and skeletons in their closets to make voters not want to elect them to the White House. It seems like the third party candidates are not serious, ill-informed, and have not put an effective platform on anything out to the public. So, what is a voter to do? I have heard several people say that they have listened to the debates, listened to the conventions, and watched interviews with the candidates, but do not like any Presidential candidate and just won’t vote.
Well, that is just about the stupidest idea I have heard!
If you really think that your vote doesn’t really matter, or that you just don’t know enough or like any candidate, or that it just doesn’t matter who is elected, then you should really read on to see why you need to get off your couch or take a moment to go to your voting center and exercise your right to vote.
The Poor Vote
The universal right to vote was not just handed to us or provided be the original Constitution. Over 200 years ago, only landowning white and wealthy men could vote. This left out poor, non-white, non-landowning citizens, which was over 80% of the population. Those people had to fight persistently and viciously to gain the right to vote; and it didn’t happen overnight. Thomas Dorr was one of the first wealthy men in Rhode Island to believed that “all men are created equal” meant that all white men should have the right to vote. In the 1840’s, he and his supporters drafted legislation proposing that all white men over 21 – poor, wealthy, landowning or not – should be able to vote on Election Day. After a poorly fought battle in Providence, Dorr was imprisoned for treason, but eventually pardoned. He is quoted in court, “The servants of a righteous cause may fail or fall in the defense of it, but all the truth that it contains is indestructible.” Dorr’s fight itself did not turn the tide, but his cause sure did. Quickly, States began to drop the property requirement so that all white men could vote, Rhode Island being the last in 1888.
The Women’s Vote
Alice Paul was among a group of women of all education levels, societal classes, and ages that were tired of how slowly women’s suffrage was progressing. The state of Washington is the first state to grant women the right to vote in 1910, with California, Oregon, Kansas, and Arizona by 1912. At the time, both women and men believed that women were too emotional to be intellectual enough to vote. Even those few women that were thought to be smart enough to vote, it was believed that family should be more important to them. A Massachusetts journal wrote, “Housewives! You do not need a ballot to clean out your sink spout.” During WWI, suffragists started to get imprisoned, which had deplorable conditions – rough guards, maggot infested food, forced feedings for those refusing to eat. As conditions became public, outrage forced President Wilson to propose the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, which granted the women the right to vote in 1920.
The Black Vote
The 15th Amendment of 1870 prohibits denying a person the right to vote based on race, ethnicity, color, or previous position of servitude. However, it has been a bit more complicated than that. Many States, mostly Southern States, have required that negroes interpret complicated of legislation or pay an extreme tax in order vote. In 1961, Bob Moses traveled from New York to Mississippi as a civil rights workers and in an effort to help negroes register to vote. However, he reported that it was much more complicated than just getting negroes registered. He tried to get the rest of the country to notice that the law in Mississippi “is law made by white people, enforced by white people, for the benefit of white people. It will be that way until the Negroes begin to vote.” So, in 1964 he and members of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) had been going door to door trying to register negro voters when 2 white volunteers and a local black activist were killed. The national media attention on the white victims exposed Mississippi’s racism and violence. President Johnson was forced to sign the Voting Rights Act in 1965, which promised federal enforcement of equal access to vote in the South.
If you still think that taking the time to education yourself about the candidates, that your vote doesn’t matter, or that you just can’t take the time to go to your voting center, then perhaps you don’t deserve the right to vote. There is still time to look at party platforms and evaluation each candidates position on issues that are important to you. If you do not like any of the candidates, you could vote for the party of your choice.
Just remember, previous generations of women, blacks, and lower class were denied the right to even weigh in on who held office. Don’t take it for granted. Voting is what sets America apart from other countries. Take pride in the responsibility and privilege!