Inspired by Teresa Valle
Feminist Suffrage Parade, NYC circa 1912, Wikimedia Commons (Public Domain).
In the United States, every citizen at least 18 years of age has the right to vote. It is a right we take for granted.
The highest voter turn-out we’ve seen in recent times was in 1960, when 63.1% of the voting-age population exercised its right to elect a president. That year, Democrat John Fitzgerald Kennedy received 34,220,984 (49.72%) votes, barely beating out Republican Richard Milhous Nixon, who received 34,108,157 (49.55%) votes.
The right to vote is a fundamental liberty granted by our Constitution. But it wasn’t always so.
The U.S. Constitution, adopted in 1787, defined the process our country would undertake to elect its presidents and vice-presidents, including the concept of an electoral college. However, state constitutions determined eligibility to vote and in most cases excluded Blacks, Women, and The Poor. With few exceptions, only White, Land-Owning Men could participate in the creation of this country’s government.
Eventually and thanks to the blood and sweat of many who came before us, the Constitution was amended to expand voting rights:
- The Fifteenth Amendment (1870) established that “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” (It took almost a century longer, for the National Voting Rights Act of 1965, to fulfill the full promise of the Fifteenth Amendment in all states.)
- The Nineteenth Amendment (1920) established that “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.” Alice Paul and Lucy Burns formed the Congressional for Women Suffrage in 1913, and successfully brought about this amendment, which Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton originally sought in 1878.
- The Twenty-Fourth Amendment (1964) established that the right to vote “shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any State by reason of failure to pay any poll tax or other tax.”
Women Suffragists picketing in front of the White,
House, 1917, Wikimedia Commons (Public Domain)
Write for your right
Don’t give up your right to vote by not exercising it on November 4! It doesn’t matter who you vote for—just please, VOTE!
Fellow blogger Teresa Valle hit home this message with a poignant and powerful expression of why she votes. Read her words, and then sit down to your own Writing Practice.
Why I Vote
By Teresa Valle
I vote because I believe that citizenship has certain rights and responsibilities. I vote because I believe in supporting the common good. I vote because I believe in freedom of religion. I vote because I believe in the principle that those of us who are fortunate enough to be strong and successful have a responsibility to help those who are less able or less fortunate. I vote because I believe the health of our people translates into the health of our country. I vote because I believe in freedom of assembly. I vote because I believe in freedom of speech. I vote because, as someone who drives on the roads, relies on the fire department, the police department, the hospitals that treat our illnesses, and the schools that educate our children, I believe I need to pony up and pay my taxes. I vote because I believe we get what we pay for. I vote because I believe we need to work hard and pay attention in order to protect ourselves, one another and our system of governance. I vote because I believe appropriate regulation can help protect our children from tainted toys, tainted foods, and the consequences of poorly controlled toxic overload. I vote because I believe the common good is best served by an informed and involved electorate. I vote because I believe in the civil treatment of individuals during wartime, and I believe in the rule of law. I vote because I believe in the power of posse comitatus to limit the excessive use of military intervention against our own citizenry. I vote because I believe the rights of the individuals and families in our country rise above the rights of corporate monoliths. I vote because I believe I am part of the natural world and that it needs our protection and stewardship. I vote because I believe in the right to bear arms. I vote because I believe in the separation of church and state. I vote because I believe in the power of the human mind, for good, for evil, and for the full range of possibilities in between. I vote because I believe in choice: not simply reproductive choice; rather, the larger concept of choice that allows us to agree or disagree without fear of reprisal. I believe in the larger concept of choice that allows us to pursue higher education, to pursue the religious convictions that speak to us as individuals and as members of formal religion, to pursue happiness and meaning in our personal relationships and our marriages, to pursue the freedoms that have defined us as a nation. I vote because I believe in sharing the burdens, the joys, and the blessings of living here and living now. I vote because I believe.
Teresa Valle is the pen name of Teresa Phillips, a writer, goose farmer, and therapist living and working in a river community in central New Mexico. Although she is primarily a writer of short fiction—which she publishes on her fiction blog, Cuentos—she’s recently been experimenting with creative non-fiction and essays at Trees for the Forest.
To vote is human
- Problems in the 2000 Presidential Elections prompted voting process reform, specifically via the Help America Vote Act of 2002. This act provided state funds to replace punch card machines with electronic voting machines (on-going), established the independent, bipartisan Election Assistance Commission (EAC), and developed minimum election administration standards for states to follow.
- Currently there are five methods for voting in the U.S.—paper ballots (used since U.S. independence, with secret ballot inroduced at the end of the 19th century), mechanical lever machines (introduced in the late 19th century and the most common method of voting through the mid 1980s), punch cards (first implemented in the early 1960s), optical scan (first used in the 1960s and currently the most common method of voting), and direct recording electronic (introduced in the mid 1970s and the second most used method).
- Three groups of individuals are vital to the voting process: voters, poll workers, and election officials.
Vote early, vote often