Since the United States of America was declared a country in 1776, the rules of voting in government have changed drastically. To understand why it is so important that every American citizen exercise their right to vote, it is first important to learn the somewhat complicated history of voting which also makes it easier to comprehend how much of a necessity this act of democracy really is. Read below to learn about some particularly monumental moments in the history of voting from America’s conception to modern day.
In 1776, voting was controlled only by state legislators. The only residents of the United States who were eligible to vote were white men of the age twenty-one or older who owned land. As you can imagine, this alienated a large population of the United States at that time and left many people without a voice, including the rest of the country who would still be affected by the legislation passed by elected officials.
After the passage of ninety-two years, the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution gives full citizenship rights, including the right to vote, to all men who were born in the United States or who were naturalized citizens of the United States. This amendment was progress for voters rights in America, but still isolated a large population of Americans who were not afforded this liberty.
Two years after the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution was enacted, the 15th Amendment to the United States Constitution was passed which intended to abolish discrimination in voting based on skin color and remove any racial barriers. Unfortunately, many states in America at that time kept these racial barriers in place. Some of these voting obstacles for non-white men included poll taxes, literacy tests, fraud and general intimidation. Despite the 15th Amendment’s passing, Native Americans were still not allowed to vote in the year 1870.
In 1910, voters in Washington amend the State Constitution which allowed women to vote and run for office. This precedes the nationwide right to vote won by women in the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution, but exemplifies the progress that would soon be made in the women’s suffrage movement.
The nationwide right for women to vote was granted in 1920 with the ratification of 19th Amendment to the United Stats Constitution. In 1924, another marginalized group, the Native Americans, were also granted citizenship and given the right to vote with the Indian Citizenship Act.
Two major developments surrounding voting took place in 1964. The first was the passage of the federal Civil Rights Act which afforded all men and women twenty-one years of age and older the right to vote regardless of their race, religion or education level. Second, the 24th Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified to eliminate poll taxes across the country.
In 1965, the federal Voting Rights Act did away with literacy tests. Voter registration and voting rights were federally enforced.
On March 23, 1971, the United States Congress approved the 26th Amendment to the United States Constitution and directed it to the states to be ratified. This amendment prohibited states and the federal government from disallowing citizens to vote based on age if they were at least eighteen years or older.
The federal Voting Act which banned literacy tests in 1965 was renewed. This renewal permanently banned literacy tests across the United States. In addition, Section 203 is added which required translated voting materials in locations with high concentrations of citizens who spoke little or no English.
To make voting easier for people at any ability or stage of life, the federal Voting Accessibility for the Elderly and Handicapped Act was passed in 1984. This act required polling places to be made easily accessible to those living with physical disabilities.
For many Americans throughout history, voting was not always a possibility and in most cases, it took years to win the right to vote. Now that the vast majority of American citizens are afforded the right to vote regardless of sex, race or religion, it is important and necessary that we exercise this right in order to ensure that our country is a fair and collective representation of its citizens. Keep reading to learn more of the reasons why it is essential for all Americans to play an active role in shaping our country through voting in local, state and federal elections.
Reasons Why It Is Important To Vote
1. To some people, it may seem as though their vote does not matter. With so many Americans and so many differences of opinion floating through our population, it may feel as though your voice and your vote will be drowned out by all of the noise. Fortunately, this is not the case. It is true that every vote counts and a great example of this is the congressional race in Alaska in 2008. This race was decided by one single vote out of 10,035 votes cast. Another example of why your individual vote matters is the Senate race in New Hampshire in 1974. This race was decided by just two votes out of 102,066.
2. Voting is your constitutional right and a privilege that not all people across the world are afforded. Our nation’s founding fathers secured the right to vote so that we may continue to have a say in the laws that affect our lives and so that we may maintain a healthy democracy.
3. It is important to stand up for what you believe in and to vote for your own interests. As an American, your voice and your opinion matters.
4. Some Americans feel as though they do not have enough information about candidates or the issues at hand to make an informed voting decision. However, with the internet and millions of resources at our fingertips, there has never been a better time in history to become educated and make informed decisions about who you want to be representing your community, state or country.
How Voting Personally Benefits Voters
In addition to having their voice heard, voters enjoy further positive benefits from the act of voting. When compared to Americans who do not vote, voters tend to volunteer more within their communities, get in touch with their elected officials on issues that really matter to them and stay up to date on local politics. There are even more benefits which voters enjoy and you can read more about these advantages below.
- Voters Remain Active In Their Communities And In Their Citizenship As Americans
When you register to vote and actively participate in local, state and federal elections, you are more likely to get involved in other politics that will affect the everyday lives of you and your family. Voting is one way to advocate for your needs and the needs of your loved ones which can benefit your quality of life in the long run. It has also been shown that voters are more likely to connect with their neighbors and become involved in community events.
2. Voters Enjoy Stronger Social Connections Compared To Those Who Do Not Vote
Because voting helps you to become more active and engaged in your community, you are more likely to form strong social bonds with your neighbors when you participate in elections. These social connections can lead to higher life satisfaction and longevity. Surveys conducted by the Census Bureau suggest that registered voters have better connections with their family members and are more likely to do favors for their neighbors. This sense of community not only benefits the individual voter, but is also an asset to those who live in communities where voter turnout is exceptionally high.
3. Voting Gives Individuals A Strong Sense Of Personal Agency
When you exercise your right to vote, you are giving yourself the satisfaction of knowing that your voice is being heard and that you are freely expressing your beliefs and opinions. Voting in any election can be viewed as a form of empowerment that allows you to have a say in the legislation and representatives that will ultimately affect your life and the lives of your loved ones.
4. Voting Produces Lower Recidivism Rates Among Ex-Offenders
When ex-offenders have their civil rights restored, including the right to vote, they are less likely to end up back in prison. One example of this benefit of voting comes from the Florida Parole Commission. The Florida Parole Commission reported that over two years, ex-offenders who were granted the right to vote again were three times less likely to be incarcerated again.
5. Voting Sets A Good Example For Children
Although children under the age of eighteen are not able to vote, witnessing their parents activity within the political sphere and especially voting can start conversations surrounding certain issues and how they are affecting society. It is important for children to learn about the voting process and the benefits of exercising this right at an early age so that when they are legally able to vote, they are more inspired to do so. There has also been evidence which shows that talking to your children about voting and politics when they are young will allow them to think more critically into adulthood.
How Voting Can Benefit Your Health
- Voting Is Linked To Better Physical Health
The American Journal of Public Health conducted a study in 2001 that showed a correlation between good health and a high voter turnout. This study concluded that residents living in states with low voter turnouts were more likely to self-report their health status as fair or poor.
2. Civic Engagement Leads To Greater Life Satisfaction
According to the academic journal Political Psychology, political activism has been linked to a greater sense of well-being and reports of greater life satisfaction.
How To Register To Vote
To begin the process of registering to vote, you must first find out if you are eligible. In Texas, you must meet the below requirements in order to register to vote:
- You are a United States citizen
- You are a resident of the county where you submit your application
- You are at least seventeen years and ten months old, and you will be eighteen years of age on the day of the election
- You are not a convicted felon. However, if you have completed your sentence, parole or probation, you might still be eligible to vote.
- You have not been declared as totally mentally incapacitated or partially mentally capacitated without the right to vote by a court exercising probate jurisdiction.
Once you have determined that you are eligible to vote, it is time to fill out your voter application. There are three ways in which you can complete this process.
Register To Vote In Person
If you choose to register to vote in person, you can do so at your county’s Voter Registrar’s office. In most counties in Texas, the Tax Assessor-Collector is also the Voter Registrar. The County Clerk or Elections Administrator will register voters in other counties.
Register To Vote By Mail
To register to vote by mail, simply pick up an application from the Voter Registrar’s office, your local library, government office or high schools.
Register To Vote Online
Many people choose to register to vote online by filling out a voter registration application, printing it, signing it and mailing it to the Voter Registrar in the county in which they live. It is important to note that simply filling out the application online will not register you to vote. You must print the application, sign it and mail it to your County Voter Registrar in order to become officially registered. The County’s Voter Registrar will then process your voter application. Thirty days after you have submitted your application and after it has been accepted by the County Voter Registrar, your are registered to vote.
If you are making the decision to register to vote, all of us at Natran Green Pest Control congratulate and thank you for taking this important step.