The long struggle for right to vote

Print Article

Do not betray the sacrifices of centuries in the push to extend democracy's franchise.

THE FOUNDERS didn't miss much, but when the U.S. Constitution was ratified in 1787 it did not contain specific guidance on who could or could not vote.

So it was left up to the states, and in most the only people allowed to vote were white men who owned property. Not until the Reconstruction period following the Civil War did the government take up the issue of denying the vote - and, indeed, denying citizenship - based on race, color or former slave status.

Even then, through Jim Crow laws states found ways around that supposed constitutional right to vote. From poll taxes to literacy tests to outright physical intimidation, persons of color were still denied the franchise in many places for decades.

Women were denied the right to vote until 1920, with adoption of the 19th Amendment. And while young Americans from age 18-21 were being drafted and sent off to war, they were not allowed to vote until adoption of the 26th Amendment in 1971.

The Voting Rights Act was passed in 1965, and in 1964 the Supreme Court ruled for "one man, one vote" in an effort to stop states from using redistricting to dilute the voting power of certain groups.

ANYONE WHO THINKS all those battles solved America's voting issues hasn't been paying attention. Political boundary manipulation - better known as gerrymandering - continues to be a big point of dispute. Laws governing ballot procedures passed in recent years are considered voter suppression by some. Lawsuits in this election - Georgia and North Dakota, for example - challenge practices some believe are intended to prevent certain people from voting.

In other words, we hope all Americans pause and think about the sacrifices and struggles over centuries that led to their ability to openly go to the polls and cast a ballot influencing the direction of the country. Do not shrug it off and flop down on the couch, betraying all those who worked so hard - and, for some, gave their lives - so you could have that right to vote.

For non-property owning white men, for people of color, for women, and young Americans wearing their country's uniform, being allowed to vote was not a right until it was demanded and fought for. Honor their struggles.

A FINAL WORD: In this commentary we focused on the internal struggle for equal voting rights in America. But as you decide whether to cast a ballot or not, also remember the hundreds of thousands of American fighting troops who died or suffered grievous physical and psychological injuries to protect your liberty to vote - or, perhaps, to be unpatriotic and just flop on that couch. When you vote, you stand up for America and you recognize all who protected and preserved your rights. Don't let them down. Don't do them dishonor. Vote on Tuesday.

Print Article

Read More Editorials

America's best; time to say so

July 08, 2019 at 9:25 am | Recognition for Vietnam service was long overdue. THERE WERE PLENTY of reasons the Vietnam War was controversial and highly unpopular in America. But there were never good reasons for disrespecti...

Comments

Read More

More cooperation, and less politics

July 08, 2019 at 9:25 am | Wisconsin still needs a more sustainable transportation plan. AS THE COLUMN on this page by Steven Walters points out, a robust economy makes every problem look a little smaller because politician...

Comments

Read More

Citizens, you need referendum option

July 01, 2019 at 3:43 pm | Court's message: Voters are on their own to change partisan stranglehold. IT'S JUST A FACT: Republicans have played smarter than Democrats, and the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in a challenge to pa...

Comments

Read More

Recruit, retain retailing options

June 24, 2019 at 9:45 am | Economic development efforts should include shopping emphasis. AND ANOTHER ONE bites the dust, after the announcement that Beloit's Save A Lot grocery is closing its doors. The Save A Lot brand i...

Comments

Read More

Contact Us

(608) 365-8811
149 State Street
Beloit, WI 53511

©2019 Beloit Daily News Terms of Use Privacy Policy
X