Why Vote, Part 1

In the U.S., no one is required by law to vote in any local, state, or presidential election. According to the U.S. Constitution, voting is a right and a privilege. Many constitutional amendments have been ratified since the first election. However, none of them made voting mandatory for U.S. citizens.  So why vote?  Voting gives you a voice in your community, state, and nation

Voting is a privilege.  Many people think that we all had the right to vote once the Constitution of the United States was written and ratified. The ability to vote came with a great cost.  Many men and women paid for the right to vote with their blood, sweat, and tears. Some people gave their lives for this right.

Most people don’t know that when the right to elect public officials started in Virginia in 1619, only wealthy landowners were allowed to vote.  (Notice 1619 is a year before the Mayflower set sail to English speaking America) Even after the Constitution was written in 1787 and ratified by 1788 it did not give all citizens the right to vote as a matter of fact it wasn’t until slavery became illegal that black men were granted the right to vote.  Back up, what is the Constitution?  The Constitution of the USA is the document written for “We the People of the United States of America, in order to have a more perfect Union”  a plan for USA government.  The Constitution created 3 branches of government.  The legislative branch (Congress) makes the laws.  The executive branch, headed by the president, which carries out the laws, and a judicial branch, headed by the supreme Court which decides if the laws are constitutional or applied correctly.  We the people vote for the legislative branch and the executive branch…the president appoints the judicial branch. All three branches are supposed to have equal authority and our government is supposed to be one with checks and balances.

After the Civil War African American men were allowed to vote but it took three amendments to accomplish this feat.  The 13th Amendment freed the slaves (1865).  This amendment was approved after the Emancipation Proclamation (1863).  The 14th Amendment (1868) made all former slaves citizens of the United States.  Most people do not know that before the Civil War slaves were born in the United States but did not have the rights of citizenship.  Finally, the 15th Amendment gave African American men the right to vote. (1869)

What about women?  Women did not get the right to vote until 1920.  Women always worked behind the scenes to get things done.  They were part of the Anti-slavery movement and were disappointed when African American men got the right to vote and women didn’t.  They marched and worked until the 19th amendment of the Constitution was added.  This gave women the right to vote.