Voting as a Social Connection
Most people think of voting as a political act. The way I said that isn’t meant to challenge that idea, voting IS the act of casting ballots for the election of actors we perceive as functioning politically, but there is more at work.
Voting binds us to each other in how our laws and our social functions are supported and upheld by those in government that we elect. We enter into a contract with everyone else when we vote for specific people to lead us towards goals we deem worthy and just. But, just how much do we understand that relationship?
Sadly, more than you would think if you only consider the optimistic side of such a question. It is OUR country, for US and by US after all, isn’t this just obvious and easily taken granted? Maybe. But what about other conclusions that could be drawn?
Whenever there has been an attempt to suppress the lawful vote for any American, at the heart of that effort is always the clear recognition that allowing everyone a voice would create the possibility that “undesired” experience and priorities might creep into the conversation and somehow impact the outcome those who aim to prevent that expect. For some, the idea that certain “lesser” people would be even be allowed to be in a social contract with them is just repugnant. For such people stopping the “others” from casting votes, and therefore influencing governance, becomes an imperative. This concern is present across differences in gender, race, economic status and political ideology.
Most Americans can’t really put together more than a high level timeline for voting rights changes in the US, the practical impacts the changes did AND most often didn’t have, the persistent problems, or make any real case that the progress we have made is acceptable when so many people are still regularly challenged when they attempt to vote. That is a real shame, because knowing that everyone is able to exercise their right to vote is the only way you’ll ever know that your right to do so is also safe. We are bound to each other through this right, and we must protect it for all or we risk losing it for ourselves.
Here is a quick reminder of some American voting rights milestones:
- 1700’s – Property owning white men are generally the only people allowed to vote
- Early 1800’s – The property ownership requirement began to be lifted
- Fifteenth Amendment (1870) – Americans could not be denied a right to vote based on race
- Later 1800’s – Poll taxes and literacy tests, most often in the South, were used to limit who voted
- Nineteenth Amendment (1920) – Women win the right to vote without gender discrimination
- 1924 – The Snyder Act, Native Americans were granted citizenship, and therefore the right to vote
- 1952 – Immigration & Nationality Act, allowed immigrants from several communities to attain citizenship and therefore the right to vote.
- 1960’s – Voter suppression continues to ramp up, most often in the Southern States
- Twenty Fourth Amendment (1964) – Poll taxes outlawed, upheld by the Supreme Court in 1966
- 1965 – The Voting Rights Act passed by Congress. Outlawed many voter suppression tactics and forces states with a history of voter suppression to submit voting change plans to the Federal Government for approval
- 1971 – Voting age reduced to 18 years of age (from 21)
- 1975 – Voting Rights Act expanded to include support for additional languages for Americans to use in the voting process
- 1982 – Voting Rights Act extended, and with additional priorities for the disabled
- 2002 – Legislation to help modernize American voting infrastructure passed
- 2013 – Supreme Court removes the portion of the original Voting Rights Act that required some states to submit voting change plans
- 2013 Since – Voter suppression tactics have returned to many states, including some with very specific identification requirements as well as significant closures of polling places in locations whose demographics look hauntingly familiar from past eras of suppression
- 2016 Since – Political campaign messaging about voter fraud often doesn’t match evidence and leads to confusion; attacks on alternative voting methods breaches states rights relative to elections and causes additional confusion
- 2020 – COVID and concerns over the safety of in-person voting…
What a long, strange trip this has been. And we’ve not arrived anywhere just yet. To understand that one form or another of suppression had led to significant numbers of Americans NOT achieving the right to vote until just the last 50 years is simultaneously both sad AND telling for how current this topic is. We are still preventing thousands of Americans from free access to voting, and we are all suffering from the downward drag this continues to have on our society.
Please vote. Please help your family and friends get registered, know their voting options and cast their ballots.
We will be stronger when everyone who has the right to vote can, and actually does. We can all share in the respect that this act has for our commitment to each other and our society. Please vote to protect all of it.
This blog post is from a series about voting, voting rights and the importance of exercising your right to vote as part of the Making Good Trouble campaign. Read about how we are Making Good Trouble this Fall as we support Rock The Vote with voter registration and voter education events to help connect more people with the voting process.
National Voter Registration Day is September 22nd. Events will be going on all over the country to help get voters registered as well as make sure they know how they can vote where they live.
Local organizations StayWorkPlay and NH Rocks are hosting the NH Rocks The Vote campaign this year. The web site has great local voter resources, including information on absentee voting and the deadlines for voting in NH this year.
We release Making Good Trouble, a new draft mead made from Brazilian Quince Blossom honey, on October 1st to celebrate voting rights and the upcoming election in which we hope everyone gets out and votes. Funds raised from pints and growlers of this new mead will be donated to Rock The Vote.