Exercise Your Right to Vote


Men and women have fought for the right to vote in the U.S. since the country’s founding. Only white, property-owning men over age 21 could vote in the first elections. President Andrew Jackson championed enfranchisement and expanded the vote to white, male non-property owners during his presidency.

Although the 15th Amendment, passed in 1870, aimed to prevent states from denying male citizens the right to vote based on “race, color or previous condition of servitude,” male African-Americans were still prohibited from voting in many states due to discriminatory practices such as intimidation, poll taxes and literacy tests.

The 19th Amendment, passed in 1920, gave women the right to vote, but women of color continued to face obstacles in voting. In 1924, the Indian Citizenship Act afforded citizenship and voting rights to all Native Americans in the U.S.

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 aimed to end voting discrimination perpetuated by Southern states following the Civil War. In 1970, the 26th Amendment was added to the Constitution, which lowered the legal voting age from 21 to 18.

In the upcoming 2020 election, many Pace seniors will be eligible to vote and should not discount all those years of struggle and suppression for that right. From 1916 to 2016, the voter turnout rate has not risen over 65% for presidential elections. Additionally, the rate has never reached 50% for the midterm election, when voters vote for House and Senate members. Even more alarming is the youth voter turnout rate (ages 18-24), which has consistently been 20-25% below the national voting average since 1970: a clear issue.

One thing is for sure: voting is every American’s civil duty. Ignoring that duty does a disservice to the inspiring figures who fought for that treasured right.

As Franklin D. Roosevelt once said, “Nobody will ever deprive the American people of the right to vote except the American people themselves, and the only way they could do this is by not voting.”

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