One of the founding principles of the United States is that power lies in the hands of its people. The forefathers of this nation rejected the idea that choices for all should be made by the few: the rich and powerful aristocracies seen primarily in Europe and across her vast empires. Thus, the groundwork for a purer version of democracy was written into the United States Constitution, one that would channel the votes of its citizens by electing representatives who best reflected the wishes of the populace. But these votes were not always accessible to everyone.
Following the emancipation of the slaves in the American south, the new-found freedom of African-Americans was still not concrete. Frederick Douglas, famed abolitionist said: “Slavery is not abolished until the Black man has the ballot.” How could one be a citizen of the nation without the right to decide who leads it? Many asked this question, and five years after the Civil War, congress ratified the 15th Amendment, stating that no one would be denied the right to vote because of “race, color, or previous condition of servitude.”
Yet there were still those who were not allowed to cast a ballot: the women of this country. The Women’s Suffrage movement sought equality between both genders, and voting rights were at the forefront of their protest. Although the movement had risen to the national level by 1848, it wasn’t until 1920 that congress ratified the 19th Amendment and women could cast ballots nationwide. It was an amendment decided by a single vote.
The accomplishments of these movements should not be taken for granted. Those activists faced much, even violent opposition, but they refused to back down. They organized and endured any resistance they faced because they realized how crucial every citizen’s vote was to ensure a fair democracy. Yet American’s today statistically fail to reach the polls each and every election year. In 2016, of 250 million eligible voters, 138 million turned out, a large number but a mere 55.5%. This was not an off year. Polls saw 54.9% in 2012; 57.1% in 2008; and 55.7% in 2004. In fact, turnout hasn’t surpassed 60% since 1968, and it hasn’t surpassed 70% since 1900.
It is important that every American votes. Here at PatrioticMe, we cannot say this enough. As stated above, our republic is designed to elect those who best reflect the thoughts and convictions of her people. This is impossible when nearly half the voting population chooses to stay silent on election day. Every American should make their voice heard!
That being said, get to voting and remember to buy a PatrioticMe patriotic t-shirt and wear it to the polls!