We can all agree that this election cycle has been divisive. Many of us feel disenfranchised by our politicians and the political system. In spite of all this drama – and perhaps because of this drama – I’d like to make the case for voting. Our government and its policies affect every aspect of our lives (health care, homeland security, education, etc.); our votes are our voices.
I just took five minutes and searched the Internet for content on the history of voting here in the US. The sources are many and varied (massvote.org has a detailed list on the history of voting rights). I encourage you to take some time to learn a bit about our Constitution and the amendments relevant to the right to vote. But if you don’t have a chance to do it on your own, I’m going to give you a list of reasons to vote. First, let’s take a tour of the United States Constitution and it’s Amendments relevant to voting.
A Constitutional Journey to the Right to Vote
The United States Constitution did not guarantee the right to vote. The United States was created by the founders with the premise that only certain individuals would make the decisions.
While our Constitution doesn’t often change, occasionally it does for the betterment of our country. There are several constitutional amendments that address the right to vote:
- The 14th Amendment: All persons born within the US are citizens and guaranteed rights and privileges (1868). Remember, when our county was founded, and for almost 100 years thereafter, only property owning white men voted. This amendment allowed non-property owning white men to vote.
- The 15th Amendment: No citizen denied the right to vote based on race, color or previous condition of servitude (1870). This Amendment intended to give men who had been slaves the same privileges as the white majority. In response to this Amendment, states found ways to work around it, such as Jim Crow laws and other barriers, such as literacy tests, poll taxes, and grandfather clauses.
- The 19th Amendment: No citizen shall be abridged of his or her right to vote based on sex (1920). Obviously, this Amendment gave women the right to vote but only after decades of protests and discrimination.
- The 24th Amendment: No poll tax is allowed or failure to pay any other tax shall prevent a person from voting (1964). This prohibition of tax on voters eliminated some Jim Crow laws, and allowed people without means to have one less impediment to voting.
- The 26th Amendment: All persons 18 or older shall not be abridged of their right to vote (1971). This was in response to the Vietnam War and the fact that 18-year olds could fight for our country but not vote.
- Voting Rights Act of 1965: This Amendment was passed to overcome the legal barriers at state and local levels that prohibited African Americans from voting.
Because of the Constitution and its Amendments, US citizens have the right to vote. Now that we’ve walked along the historical path of voting, let jump forward to our future and why we all should vote on November 8, 2016.
10 Reasons to Vote on November 8
- You have the power: why let other people decide for you? If you don’t stand up for what you believe in, don’t expect someone else to do it for you. Vote.
- Feel like you’re not heard and that elected officials don’t represent you? Then vote.
- Generations of people fought for your right to vote. Honor them by voting.
- Want the issues you care about to have a chance to come to fruition? Then elect the representatives who champion those causes. Vote.
- Is your neighbor voting for the “evil” candidate(s)? Vote!
- Voting is not mandatory in the US like it is in 22 countries. Vote on November 8 like it’s a law.
- This is not just a presidential election. Vote for your local officials to impact local decisions that effect your every day life.
- Make a dent or put some emphasis on the winner’s margin of victory. Elected officials who win by small margins are very aware of that and thus forward more moderate agendas, working to appeal to a wider audience in order to get elected again. If your candidate wins by a larger majority, your personal agenda has a better chance to be advanced. Vote.
- Our children depend on us to make decisions about their future. Vote for your kids.
- While voting is not a requirement, it is a responsibility. Vote.
Did I support your conviction to vote? Let me know! I am a personal injury lawyer and I’d like the opportunity to work with you if you live in or near the Berkshires of Massachusetts. You can call me at (413) 429-6400 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.