The Other Side

The Right to Vote

It’s that time of year – election season! Remember when who you voted for was a private matter. Sure some folks had signs in their yard supporting their candidate, but once social media came along, political opinions became a dime a dozen. Nowadays it’s virtually impossible to avoid friends’ posts giving their strong opinions on who to vote for and why.

With so many voices, sometimes we may forget that there was a period of time where women and black Americans were not allowed to vote. While the 19th Amendment established women’s suffrage as part of the full responsibility of citizenship, the 15th Amendment gave black men the right to vote, but it wasn’t that simple for black Americans. States were still allowed to determine qualifications for suffrage. Many used literacy tests and poll taxes to keep people from voting.

On Sunday, March 7th, 1965, marchers set out from Selma to Montgomery on a day that would be known as Bloody Sunday. The nation watched as Americans were beaten by state troopers, as they attempted to cross Edmund Pettus Bridge. Ultimately, the Voting Rights Act banned discriminatory practices that would prevent black Americans from voting.

It was a long, hard fight that some people gave their lives for. We now have the right to vote; some would even say the responsibility to vote. That was precisely what the fight was for – the rights and responsibilities of citizenship.

While we may love to go back to the days when who we voted for was personal, I would add that the decision to vote or not vote is also a personal matter to be respected. Voting may indeed be a responsibility, but it is also a choice. If you can’t stand by who you’re voting for, a non vote is also a vote. A vote outside of the two main parties is a vote as well.

Stand by your principles. Be a responsible citizen beyond the voting booth.