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History of US Voting Rights

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Published: Fri, 26 May 2017

There are many reasons why people do not vote, and why it is necessary to vote. Many of us take our right to vote for granted. Our state and federal governments, however, have been instrumental in the past in denying different groups of people-including women, African-Americans, young people, people who didn’t own land and who couldn’t pay poll taxes, and people who couldn’t read and write-the right to vote. And throughout history these groups of people have organized, struggled, and fought for their right to vote. This activity presents a brief history of voting rights in this country.

In modern America, almost everyone can vote who wants to. But it wasn’t always that way! Here are some of the groups that have been blocked from voting over the past two hundred years. Women for many years’ only men were allowed to vote. Women were considered too emotional to make wise choices. It took 75 years of protesting before women won the right to vote through the 19th Amendment to the Constitution in 1920. Susan B. Anthony dedicated the next five decades of her life fighting for the right to vote, and all for a cause that would not succeed until the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment fourteen years after her death in 1906. Susan B. Anthony famous trails in 1873 helped pave the way for women’s right to vote and she once stated “it was we, the people; not we, white male citizens; nor yet we, the male citizens, but we, the whole people, who formed the Union.”

When this country was first founded, only White men who owned land were allowed to vote. Lawmakers believed that only property owners had enough at stake in the country to vote responsibly. By the early 1800s, the property requirement was replaced with a poll tax, which required citizens to pay a special fee in order to vote. Poll taxes were made illegal by the 24th amendment to the Constitution in 1964.

For many years, voting was restricted to adults 21 years and older in some states. During the Vietnam War era, many people argued that if you were old enough to fight and die for your country, you were old enough to vote. The 26th Amendment, passed in 1971, granted the right to vote to everyone 18 or older.

Some states only allowed people who could read or write to vote. State lawmakers believed that only people who could read and write could get the information they needed to make smart choices. Nowadays, there are many ways to get information that do not involve reading and writing. The 1965 Voting Rights Act banned literacy tests.

The Constitution did not specifically restrict voting to White people, but also African-Americans it stated that only freemen or people who were not slaves could vote. This made it illegal for most African-Americans to vote until after the Civil War. The 15th Amendment, passed in 1870, allowed Black men (not women) to vote. After that, many states passed new laws to restrict Black voting. Literacy tests, poll taxes, and intimidation were methods used to limit Black voting. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 did away with all these restrictions on who could vote. It also set up a system to make sure that the new law would be followed.

Most People do not think their vote matters/counts. Most People do not Why man First, why it’s important to vote, most citizens believe that their vote does not matter and do not vote for that reason. Second, another reason is some citizens do not know how or where to vote. Finally, some citizens just figure it’s a waste of time and too much trouble, too confusing, and too much reading on which candidates to vote for.

The research we’ve found was very fascinating. As we conducted our own surveys with my fellow students, I couldn’t believe that just a little over half my class were registered to vote. According to the audience analysis on July 4, 2010, here in our Political Science 101; we surveyed 28 students and out the 28 students we found 58% of the students are register voters. The other 42% did not take the voting seriously.

According to the Historical Voter Registration and Participation in Statewide General Elections from 1910-2008, the eligible citizens to vote in the Presidential election held in November 2008, were 23,208,710, only 13,743,177 cast a vote, meaning only 59.2% of the registered voters participated in the November 2008 Presidential Election. During the Presidential primary elections held in February 5, 2008, only 28.22% of women voters are registered participated.

American voting habits are particularly striking when compared with those of other democratic nations, like Japan and Germany, where 89 percent of the potential voters go to the polls. In fact, most democracies have about 80 percent voter participation. Of the 153 democracies in the world, the United States ranks near the bottom for voter involvement. National Voter Turnout in Federal Elections: 1960-2008. The chart below provides information about voter statistics, including age of voting population, voter registration, and turnout from 1994- 2008.

Year

Voting-age

population

Voter

registration

Voter turnout

Turnout of voting-age

population (percent)

2008*

231,229,580

NA

132,618,580*

59.2%

2006

220,600,000

135,889,600

80,588,000

37.1%

2004

221,256,931

174,800,000

122,294,978

55.3

2002

215,473,000

150,990,598

79,830,119

37.0

2000

205,815,000

156,421,311

105,586,274

51.3

1998

200,929,000

141,850,558

73,117,022

36.4

1996

196,511,000

146,211,960

96,456,345

49.1

1994

193,650,000

130,292,822

75,105,860

38.8

First, many citizens do not vote because they don’t believe that their vote count and deters them from voting. Another contributing factor is that their parents never did so why should they start or do so. Most individuals believe it is a waste of time and too much trouble, too much reading and too confusing on which candidates to vote for. Most people do not have time to learn about the issues and candidates. Also many people are not registered to vote and do not want to vote because that can cause them to go on jury duty.

The solution for these problems can be slightly taken care of by each state has its own registration deadline. Once a citizen decides to take responsibility to vote, that person must register to vote. He or she must register, you can go online and go to www.sos.ca.gov/elections or pick up a form in person at any number of public offices (library, DMV, post office, county election office, city clerk, etc.) or you can call 1-800-345-VOTE to request a form to be mailed to you.

Finally, you as a citizen of the United States need to educate yourself on the candidates and the issues before you vote and get the facts. Do not become like most people that go to the polls and cast your vote without knowing about the candidates. It’s your job as a citizen to know, not just who is running for president but also to know who is running for Senate or House seats. It’s your duty and right to formulate your votes based on the research you have done, not on what you heard through television ads, but it’s your duty to read local newspapers to learn more about the local elections, such as mayoral race, as well as special issues that maybe on the ballot. It’s your duty to read as much as you can, and remember voting is one of the fundamental processes, which is instrumental in the development of a healthy democracy.

In the essay about why do not people vote, we gave you a brief history of voting over the past years, we gave you reasons why people do not vote and some solutions that can make the voting problem a bit less than what it is. We also given reason why it’s our duty and how important it is for each of us to register and do our civic duty and it’s our responsibility as citizens to take this seriously. Everyone wants their voice to be heard and their opinion to count. The only way to do that is to go register if you have not already and to vote smart, remember only 59 percent of Americans vote in presidential election, and you can make a difference.


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