OP-ED: The Value of Your Vote

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“The punishment which the wise suffer who refuse to take part in the government, is to live under the government of worse men.” Plato

The election season has definitely begun. Now is the time of politicians; polls and promises, but getting involved in politics should not just be a November occurrence. To be eligible to register to vote an individual must (1) be at least 18 years of age at the time of the next election –some states allow 17 year olds to vote (2) be a U.S. citizen and (3) be a resident of the jurisdiction where the individual is registering.

Originally the U.S. Constitution did not define voter eligibility and in the early years of the Republic most states only allowed white male property owners to vote. White women could vote in New Jersey but still had to meet the property ownership requirement. Freed male slaves could vote in 4 states; Delaware, Maryland, New Hampshire and New York. After the Civil War ended in 1865 the Republican Congress passed the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery and the 14th Amendment providing full citizenship rights for Blacks. Congress insisted that the Southern states ratify these Amendments before they could be readmitted into the United States. Because the Rebels had their voting rights suspended during Reconstruction the Republican Party (party of Lincoln and abolition) became the political majority in the South. In Texas 42 Blacks were elected to the State Legislature, 50 to the South Carolina Legislature, 127 to Louisiana’s and 99 to Alabama’s.

“These Republican legislatures moved quickly to protect voting rights for blacks, prohibit segregation, establish public education, and open public transportation, State police, juries, and other institutions to blacks.(It is noteworthy that the blacks serving both in the federal and State legislatures during that time forgivingly voted for amnesty for the Rebels.) “ David Barton the History of Black Voting Rights

The Democratic response to this voting empowerment of Black Americans were Poll Taxes, Literacy tests, Grandfather clauses, White-only primaries, physical intimidation and violence. These tactics would greatly reduce the voting percentages of Blacks. In Selma, Alabama the voting rolls were 99 percent white and 1 percent black even though there were more black residents than whites in that city. Black voters in Florida and Alabama were reduced by nearly 90 percent. By the 1940’s, only 5 percent of blacks in the South were registered to vote.

In October 2014 we sometimes forget the value and the price paid for our vote. Your vote is precious and should be handled as such. When you vote, you are hiring a politician to take responsibility for your income, your rights, your freedoms, your schools, your overall welfare and even the roads upon which you travel. When you vote this November make sure the candidate has your values and has a vision for your future and will fight for that future. Study the candidates, study the platforms, and study the issues. Refuse to let your vote be taken for granted!

Voting matters and your vote counts.

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