To many, voting is a weighty yet simple act of civic duty, taken for granted but performed with pride and seriousness of purpose.
November 6th is Election Day in the United States. Culminating a campaign that has lasted more than a year, the American people will now decide who will serve as our nation’s next President and Vice President.
Voting is one of the most important rights and duties of a citizen. The U.S. Constitution reserves to the fifty state governments the authority to determine the qualifications of voters and the methods of voting in their state. When the Constitution was adopted two centuries ago, voting was limited to white males. Many states also required voters to own property of a certain value.
But as more and more Americans began to demand the right to vote, state governments moved towards broadening the franchise. The Constitution was updated in 1870 to protect the rights of newly liberated slaves, including their right to vote. The Fifteenth Amendment states that the right to vote shall not be denied on account of race or color.
In 1920, the state governments ratified the Nineteenth Amendment, guaranteeing the vote to women. Because some states made unfair use of poll taxes, literacy tests and other restrictions to deny the franchise to racial minorities, the U.S. Congress passed the Voting Rights Act in 1965. This empowered federal officials to take over voter registration in some jurisdictions where local officials had discriminated against minority voters.
Suffrage was further expanded by the 1970s. The legal age for voting in most states had been twenty-one. The Twenty-sixth Amendment established eighteen as the legal voting age throughout the country.
Today most Americans who can vote do. To many, voting is a weighty yet simple act of civic duty, taken for granted but performed with pride and seriousness of purpose. Though now long familiar to Americans, democratic elections are still lacking in many parts of the world today.
Democracies like ours are founded on the belief that people have right and the wisdom to decide who will govern them. As the nation’s close elections have shown, once that decision is made, Americans respect it. The 2012 election is expected to be one of the closest to date, and with possible technical problems and challenges as seen in the 2000 balloting, it might be days before the winners are known. But as President Abraham Lincoln said, "there can be no successful appeal from a fair election, but to the next election."