With Election Day drawing nearer for Alaskans (Oct. 3), and the national election coming up in November, I thought it would be a good idea to give some insight on a battle many people have had to fight to have the right to vote, as well as how the white male has had it pretty good in the battle for the vote. There also are decisions that could have changed the history of the United States if it hadn’t been for just one vote. It could give you something to think about, even if you aren’t yet old enough to vote.
Many people take for granted the right to cast a ballot. Today all you need to do is be a registered voter, live in the state you are voting in, and be 18 years old if you want to vote. Only 86 years ago, women couldn’t vote for who would represent them in government. Not until 1920, when President Woodrow Wilson passed the 19th Amendment, could women vote in national elections. It was only 42 years ago, in 1964, that it was made illegal to poll someone, like having them take a literacy test or pay a certain amount of money in order to vote to keep many people who couldn’t read or were poor from voting.
From the beginning of our country, the rich white male has been able to vote. In 1776, just after our country became a free nation, only white males 21-years-old or older, who were considered rich for the time and owned many acres of land could vote. Minorities and women couldn’t. By the 1800s, most white men could vote, whether they were rich or poor, but still the minorities and women couldn’t. Women and African Americans fought hard for suffrage, or the right to vote. Led by Susan B. Anthony in the mid-1800s, women held marches and protests to win support that were carried out for years afterward until they eventually succeeded. African Americans followed the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s to win their right to vote.
Throughout American history, there have been a number of major occurrences that have been decided by just one vote. States like California, Idaho, Oregon, Texas and Washington became states by just one vote. Presidential elections have been won or lost on a vote.
In 1948, if Thomas E. Dewey would have gotten one more vote per precinct, or place a person goes to vote, in Ohio and California, Harry S. Truman probably wouldn’t have been elected the 33rd president. The same with John F. Kennedy in 1960. One little vote kept Richard M. Nixon from being in office eight years earlier.
Winning an election is a matter of getting the most votes. It is how our government functions. If people didn’t go and vote for the candidates then our nation wouldn’t be able to function.
In my U.S. history class, we have been learning about freedom and how people have died and fought wars for it, and how entire armies have tried to keep it from others. People have the freedom to vote now.
It has taken many years and a lot of work. It would be a shame to let other people choose who will be representing you in the government, when you have the right to so easily pick your candidate.
So as election day draws nearer, consider doing your part in democracy and casting your vote.
Mallory Millay is junior at Skyview High School.
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