Is The United States Committed to Democracy?
In today’s divisive political climate, there is one overarching bi-partisan sentiment: every vote counts. No other duty is so basic or important as voting. Democrats, Republicans, and Independents alike all agree on the power of a voting populous. What differs are the tactics employed by either party to promote or suppress participation at the polls. Currently, one party would move mountains to return to the era when only a small segment of our population was eligible to participate in the voting process. We are where we are today because of the sacrifices of thousands of our ancestors who were committed to equality for all Americans.
The following timeline obtained from the Library of Congress chronicles the milestones in the 250-year struggle for the voting rights for all Americans:
· In 1776, all white men who own property have the right to vote, except for Catholics, Jews, and Quakers.
· In 1856, North Carolina becomes the last state to allow all white men who are not convicted criminals to vote.
· In 1870, Congress ratifies the Fifteenth Amendment, which guarantees all non- white men the right to vote. However, this right was often denied to African- Americans.
· Women are granted the right to vote in 1920 via the Nineteenth Amendment.
· Native Americans gain the right to vote in 1924 when Congress grants full U.S. citizenship to all Native Americans via the Indian Citizenship Act. This Act declares all indigenous people born within the U.S. to be citizens, giving them the right to vote. However, many Native Americans continue to be denied the right to vote by states until 1948.
· Residents who live in the District of Columbia are granted the right to vote in 1961 by the Twenty-third Amendment.
· Poll taxes are prohibited by the Twenty-fourth Amendment in 1964 to ensure no American is denied the right to vote because of an inability to pay.
· In 1971, Congress ratifies the Twenty-sixth Amendment, which guarantees that all U.S. citizens who are eighteen years old can vote. Previously, Americans had to be twenty-one years old to vote.
Prior to the voting rights act of 1965 being signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson Africa Americans had to face a multitude of obstacles. Jim Crow Laws, Poll Taxes, and Grandfather clauses not to mention outright physical intimidation represented a few tactics used to marginalize black voters. Since 1965, every administration from Nixon through Obama has either extended or strengthened this piece of legislation. In 2013, the Shelby v. Holder Supreme Court case placed a significant hole in the protections of the VRA. The 2014 midterm elections were the first referendums since 1965 that did not provide voters with the full protections of the act. In 2016, the Obama Administration restored protections in four states, but 13 other states continue their suppression efforts.
The 2020 elections are about more than who will occupy the White House. Will our democracy continue to advance, or will the sacrifices of our ancestors be for naught?
Voter suppression is damaging to all Americans!