Would You Want to Vote If…

Would You Want to Vote If…

Lauren PesinWednesday,11 November 2015

Since seeing the movie, “Suffragette” (which was exceptional) I haven’t been able to stop thinking about how many people in the United States don’t vote.

In the U.S., we’re certainly disconnected from the suffrage experience. Maybe this will help.

1790: Only white male adult property-owners had the right to vote.

1850: Property ownership and tax requirements ended. Almost all adult white males could vote.

1855: Connecticut adopted the nation’s first of many state literacy tests as a voting requirement, which would later impact the voting eligibility for immigrants, specifically Irish and African-Americans.

1870: The Fifteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was passed giving African-American men the right to vote.

1920: The Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution ratified, giving women the right to vote.

Even though none of us remember (because we weren’t alive), there’s been a great deal of violence, death, destruction, injustice, and tragedy associated with suffrage movements in the United States. Yet for whatever reason, we (as in the majority of eligible U.S. voters) throw away our hard fought and blood-stained right to vote.

Many people were abused, assaulted, lost children, jobs, opportunities, homes, and their lives. To name a few, scores of women, African-Americans, immigrants, and the poor have struggled just for a chance to be heard via their vote. Still, only a small percentage of eligible Americans even have the desire to vote.

When I asked a random sampling of friends, family, co-workers, and a few strangers, “What would make you want to vote?” they provided the following replies:

“If I thought my vote mattered, I would want to vote.”

“If there was a candidate I actually wanted in office, I’d vote.”

“If I hate a candidate, I’d vote against them.”

“If I could get out of work, I’d vote.”

“If there was an issue being decided that I feel strongly about, I’d want to vote.”

These replies may indicate issues within our political or educational institutions (or that I asked grumpy people).  However, they might be on to something. In addition to education and reform, campaigns focusing on issues that impact people who typically don’t vote, specifically the disadvantaged or the disenfranchised might make a difference (or just make people fight).

Movements, such as “Rock the Vote” have inspired some youth to vote. If stories of painful hunger strikes, stoning, and torture doesn’t make people feel the obligation or desire to vote, perhaps something more personal.

I wonder what would happen if our right to vote was taken away.

“What if an amendment to the U.S. Constitution was passed stating you may only vote in the U.S. if you are a white male between the ages of 45 and 75 with an average net worth of $2 million; score within the top 2% on a federally created standardized voting test; and pass a health, fitness, and beauty exam?”

“Would you want to vote then?”

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Image Credit: National Museum of American History on Flickr

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