The voting rights of today
As we draw ever closer to the 2016 presidential election, its important to understand how fortunate we are to be able to vote for the people who lead our country.
Its alarming to know that people in some other countries arent given the right to vote, or that only one segment of the population can vote while the rest have no voice in their government. We in the United States owe it to our foremothers and forefathers to exercise the action that they once fought so hard to obtain.
I am 18 years old, turning 19 this September, and I voted for the first time in the primary election in May. Holding that piece of paper in my hands and knowing that I was one of hundreds of thousands of people to make a difference was truly empowering. That may seem cheesy or self-important, but it is true that every vote counts. You, me and every other person of age in Oregon and in America have the power to change or maintain who is in charge.
Thats why It is so important to recognize the people who had to fight our own government for the right to vote. It took 144 years from the creation of our nation for women to finally obtain the right to vote; unfortunately, state laws and practices disenfranchised women of color from voting soon after the 19th Amendment, largely in the South. It wasnt until the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that racial and ethnic minorities were granted the right to cast their ballots.
The truth is, voting restrictions affecting people of color, especially African-Americans, still occur across the country. One such example is in North Carolina, where laws require photo identification while scaling back early voting, preventing citizens from registering and voting on the same day. A study conducted by the American Civil Liberties Union reported that African-Americans were 64 percent more likely to vote early, compared to 49 percent of white people. The Supreme Court struck down North Carolinas restrictive voting rules recently, along with those of Wisconsin, Texas, Michigan, Kansas and North Dakota, labeling all of them discriminatory.
Critics point to voter fraud as a potential danger regarding looser voting regulations. But many studies, investigations and searches have all reported the same fact: that voter fraud largely does not exist. The secretary of state in Kansas led an examination of 84 million votes cast in 22 states to find duplicate registrants or other forms of voter fraud, and turned up only 14 cases. Studies conducted by The New York Times, Arizona State University, Columbia University, a Wisconsin task force and more all report similar statistics.
Despite changes in voting laws that have passed since the last presidential election, these fraud rates have remained the same for the past decade. Extending the voting period, requiring less identification and making voting more accessible for all people would encourage more people to vote, and make it easier for those who want to vote but are prevented from doing so.
Voting is essential and necessary to maintain our democracy. But more than that, voting is patriotic and part of what makes America great. Consider this my personal encouragement for all people of age to vote, no matter who you vote for, in the upcoming elections.
It is our duty and our privilege as American citizens to help choose our political leaders, and we all must recognize how important it is to do so, and to ensure that Americans all across the country have their voices heard.