Election Science 

The Right To Vote

Our right to vote is among the most important things we can do. Josef Stalin said “It doesn’t matter that people can vote, what does matter is who counts the vote.” While we can be thankful to not have a ruthless dictator in charge in countries where voting is held, the point is accurate that without an accurate assessment of the ballots our right to vote means much less.

Voting in America mattered greatly as a measure of acceptance. For many years men were the only ones to vote, and not all men! Asian Americans, Chinese Americans and Filipinos had long been restricted in citizenship and voting. African Americans like many others were denied the right to cast their votes until 1965. Although they could register to vote following the Amendments added after the Civil War, only a small number signed up due to violence and fears for safety at the polling places. Native Americans also had battles winning favor to vote.

In 1848 women began the battle to be able to vote and one of those women, Charlotte Woodwood, was in that long battle and cast her vote at 81 years old that first year that she could. Women were jailed and sent to prison, bread and water the ration. Alice Paul complete 7 months of this, which included a hunger strike for which she was sent to the psychiatric ward and threatened with transfer to an insane asylum. She was force fed three times per day. Her crime was picketing in front of the White House in 1917 to be allowed to vote. A year earlier Montana woman Jeannette Rankin became the first woman elected to Congress, but she couldn’t vote in many elections! In 1920 Tennessee ratified the 19th  amendment giving women the right to vote.

Wyoming led the way in 1890 in allowing women to vote with Colorado following three years later by vote of the men.  Until 1920 women were not entitled to vote nationally.

Various means were used to keep some people from voting. Some of the tactics included poll taxes while others used literacy tests and intimidation to keep some from voting and in 1965 the passage of the Voting Right Act insured all Americans had the right to vote without intimidation.

As late as 1971 one had to be 21 to vote. With the Vietnam War raging 18 year olds were drafted to serve and sent to war but could not vote in the American elections. The 26th Amendment lowered the voting age from 21 to 18.

In 2005 the Voting Right Act was used in Mississippi in charges that black officials were discriminating against white voters.

The long battle for the ability to vote in these groups and the solemn privilege that it is to be able to cast one’s vote is part of why as Americans many are concerned about maintaining that accuracy in the voting process. It is something that many, especially those of groups who weren’t always entitled to vote and have that right now because of many who stood up and demanded their right to be counted not just from a voting standpoint but as human beings living in the United State of America with an interest in exercising the right that many struggled for. Be it gender, skin color or age, much has changed since the first white male Americans began voting in a growing country.

Even America’s very existence was decided by vote after the original 13 colonies voted on July 4 1776 in support of the Declaration of Independence from England. In this very important vote Pennsylvania and South Carolina voted ‘no’ while New York abstained and Delaware was undecided.

With a long history of struggles underscoring the importance of voting it is little wonder that the act of voting can generate the same disagreements, controversy and opinions that American voters have always had – standing up for their views and opinions but sticking with the rest of our country.