Saturday, October 11, 2014

Voting Rights

Last week I was sitting in a coffee shop when I overheard two young women discussing voting.  They were both not registered to vote and had decided that their votes did not matter anyways.  It was clear they didn’t know our history and the close ties voting rights in the United States have to our freedom.  When I turned 18 I registered to vote, but in the past my voting habits have been inconsistent.  It was not until recently I understood the importance of civic engagement.   

Voting rights have progressed a great deal since the creation of the Constitution in 1787.  Initially, only ‘free whites’ had the ability to vote and it was not until 1870 and the passing of 15th Amendment that voting standards began to shift.  The 15th Amendment does not allow denial of the right to vote based “on account of race, color or previous conditions of servitude” which began to expand the diversity of the voting population.  The 15th Amendment broke down huge barriers when it came to voting rights however, discrimination based on sex still remained.  It was not until 50 years later in 1920 the 19th Amendment was created which stated that “citizens could not be denied the right to vote on the account of sex.”  Later, in 1965 the Voting Rights Act was constructed and signed by President Lyndon Johnston.  The Voting Rights Act was created to enforce the 15th Amendment and to take down state wide barriers which were infringing on the right to vote.

Our history tells us that voting rights has been a constant fight, which many having given their lives for.  Several Americans today do not register to vote or do not take voting seriously.  It seems Americans have forgotten the importance and the significance of the battles historically that I have allowed us this right.  I have learned that voting is more than a right, it is our responsibility.  So, the next time I hear Americans discussing how little value voting has I will take the opportunity to share our history and the importance of participating in democracy.