Did you Vote? Our right, our freedom to vote, comes with the responsibility to vote.
I hope today you exercised:
To participate in the process of choosing the people that govern us, make and enforce our laws. These things were hard fought and long in the making of what they are today.
history of voting in the United States has not been characterized by a
smooth and inexorable progress toward universal political participation.
It has instead been much messier, littered with periods of both
expansion and retraction of the franchise with respect to many groups of
potential voters." Grant M. Hayden, Hofstra University law professor in the Oxford Companion to American Law.
were fewer opportunities to exercise the right to vote in colonial America. The
English king appointed most governors, though there were exceptions.
white, male property owners twenty-one or older could vote. Some
colonists not only accepted these restrictions but also opposed
broadening the franchise. Duke University professor Alexander Keyssar wrote in The Right to Vote: The Contested History of Democracy in the United States:
Some colonies required a voter to own a certain amount of land or land
of a specified value. Others required personal property of a certain
value, or payment of a certain amount of taxes.
John Adams wrote in 1776 that no good could come from enfranchising more Americans:
upon it, Sir, it is dangerous to open so fruitful a source of
controversy and altercation as would be opened by attempting to alter
the qualifications of voters; there will be no end to it. New claims
will arise; women will demand the vote; lads from 12 to 21 will think
their rights not enough attended to; and every man who has not a
farthing, will demand an equal voice with any other, in all acts of
state. It tends to confound and destroy all distinctions, and prostrate
all ranks to one common level.”
Benjamin Franklin lampooned them
when he wrote: “Today a man owns a jackass worth 50 dollars and he is
entitled to vote; but before the next election the jackass dies. The man
in the mean time has become more experienced, his knowledge of the
principles of government, and his acquaintance with mankind, are more
extensive, and he is therefore better qualified to make a proper
selection of rulers—but the jackass is dead and the man cannot vote. Now
gentlemen, pray inform me, in whom is the right of suffrage? In the man
or in the jackass? “
Property restrictions gradually disappeared and the 15th Amendment in 1870 enfranchised black men, followed in 1920 by the 19th Amendment which enfranchised women.
These amendments were hard fought and won, and we should appreciate the freedom they give us to make choices for ourselves and our country.