This Tuesday is Election Day and all across our nation voters will be headed to the polls. Voting is an important responsibility of each citizen., and when individuals take the time to register and then go to the polls and cast his or her ballot, they are fulfilling one of their duties as an American. Whether voting in local, state, or national elections, one is helping to shape the community in which he or her lives.
Voters decide not only upon the candidates that will serve them, they also decide numerous important issues and ballot measures. Today the ability to vote in the United States is a guaranteed right for all citizens over the age of eighteen. However, this was not always the case.
In 1971, the passage of the 26th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution gave all persons 18 and older the right to vote. The 26th Amendment came about primarily because of the Vietnam War and the related discussions of why eighteen-year-olds could fight and die for their country yet were not allowed to vote, especially to vote for the members of Congress who had sent or would be sending them overseas into combat. This historic event resulted in the voting age being lowered from 21 to 18.
Another important constitutional amendment dealing with voting was the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that says: “No citizen shall be abridged of their right to vote based on sex.” This was passed in 1920, though some states had previously given women that privilege. Giving women the right to vote was by far one of the most important amendments in the U.S. Constitution, because it gave the right to vote to over half the U.S. population, a percentage that had previously been given no voice in government. The 19th Amendment was passed after decades of on-going protest from women and women’s groups.
Historically, voting rates are higher in presidential election years than in years of only congressional elections. In the 2012 presidential election year, 61.8% voted, but in the congressional race of 2010, only 45.5% voted. The projected turnout is somewhere between 45% to 50% for Tuesday’s election. In the last presidential race (2012), of 18 to 24 year-olds, only 41% voted, compared with 72% of those aged 65 and older. Statistics show that women tend to vote at higher rates than men. This was the case in the 2012 election when 64% of women cast votes, while only 60% of men did. Another interesting statistic is that voting rates tend to increase with education. In the 2012 elections, voters with a 4-year college degree had a 77% turnout compared to only 38% of those with no high school diploma.
Voting is the cornerstone of our democracy, but sadly, too few people look at this responsibility with the seriousness of which it is deserving. American citizens depend on good government, and good government comes from fair and open elections. The wellbeing of our states and our nation is something that we should never take for granted. Our nation and its citizens are more likely to thrive in an environment where government is held in high esteem, where citizens will participate in the election process, and where government and elected officials are trusted. The most effective way to accomplish these things is by exercising the right to vote.
Don’t forget to vote.