Voting in America

Voting+in+America

With the next presidential election coming up, some might wonder how voting came to be the way it is today. When was the idea established? When were all people given equal voting rights? More people should be able to learn about the history of voting. Let’s talk about it all!

 

Were all people originally able to vote?

At first, only white men aged 21 and older who owned land could vote. There was extreme racial and general discrimination against those who could and could not participate. If you were a person of color, a woman, or not someone who owned land, you were not allowed to vote.

A Quick Voting Timeline

1788 

The founding fathers of the United States established the Electoral College. This meant that the people of the U.S. weren’t the ones voting, the Electoral College was. The Electoral College is a group of officials chosen by the United States Constitution who elect the president and vice president of the United States. It is important that we have this because it acts as a support system for the voters.

1870

The 15th amendment eliminated racial barriers to vote, though many states still continued to discriminate. At this time, Native Americans, any people of color, women, and non landowners were still unable to vote because at the time they didn’t have equal rights.

1920

the 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution allowed for women to vote nationwide. Women were also officially able to run for office as well.

1934

The Indian Citizenship Act allowed Native Americans the right to vote as well. This decision was established because more and more people of different races were gaining voting rights.

1964

The Federal Civil Rights Act is passed. This allows for all people, regardless of gender or race, the right to vote.

1971

The 26th amendment to the U.S. constitution lowered the voting age from 21 to 18. This decision was made because though men were sent to fight in wars, they were not able to vote, and the people felt that this was unfair. “Old enough to fight, old enough to vote.” Became a common slogan used.

1984

The federal Voting Accessibility for the Elderly and Handicapped Act made it a requirement for polling buildings to be accessible to people with disabilities.

2000

The U.S. Census stated that Washington’s non-English speaking population has grown so much to the point where some countries must translate voting materials.

2008

Washington enacts the “Top 2 Primary” which allows voters to elect any candidate they want regardless of their party preference.

2009

After Oregon, Washington became the second state to also  vote by mail rather than in person. However, you can still vote in person, the choice is up to you!

Today

Around 4 million people are registered to vote in Washington, around 68 percent are eligible.

That is a quick timeline of voting history in the United States of America! Remember, if you are old enough to vote you definitely should. Every voice matters, let yours be heard!

 

The Importance of Voting

Currently in the US, many people don’t feel obligated to do their part as an American citizen and vote. Could it be because they don’t like either candidate? The party system is a system they don’t agree with? Or could it be they are just unaware of the importance of voting? According to politico.com, 50% of the adult citizens in the US do not vote. This is very concerning because that means half of our country is unaware as to how critical voting is. Voting brings change to our country that will be the cause and effect for our future by taking the responsibility of voting. This ensures that the populous is creating a better world for our citizens. It is imperative that people vote to ensure our stability and strength of our country.

Altamed.com states that “you have the ability to decide the lifestyle of yourself and future generations.” The site also mentioned that your vote can determine where your taxes are going, such as social services or health care. Voting is also a remarkable opportunity to have a more positive change on your lifestyle and others. National Geographic once stated in an article “your vote might not immediately go to the president, but it will conjoin with others’ and help impact the outcome of the election.” From aactnow.org, voting also affects your workplace by possibly increasing income, fairness in hiring, job security, and pay equity. Lastly, voting is vital in the pursuit of the future you want, therefore, if you do not participate in voting, the scale could be tipped more towards the lifestyle you don’t aspire to have in your future.  

 

How to Vote

Many people, regardless of age, are unaware of the logistics of voting. If you have questions, you are not alone! The stigmatization around the simplicity of voting needs to be eradicated–everyone has questions, and it is no where near shameful to ask. While voting in theory is easy, there are quite a few nuances and complications that make voting a difficult task for people of all ages. To create some basic foundations for those of you who are of age or close to voting age, the age of preregistration in Washington is 16, and that is something you can do online right now at https://www.sos.wa.gov/elections/future-voter-program.aspx (you can also use this site to register to vote if you have not pre-registered by the time you turn 18). And remember, if you are voting in person, you must bring with you a valid driver’s license or other valid state identification (howto.vote).

According to Keysweekly.com, one of the most frequently asked questions of young people is how to continue, or begin, your career as a voter if you go out of state for college. Vote.org gives a great explanation of the steps to do so, but, to put it simply, all you have to do is request an absentee ballot, which must be done at least seven days before the election in Washington state. The same can be done for those who go abroad, but there is an added step that comes in before receiving that absentee ballot: each year, you must submit a Federal Post Card Application (FPCA) to local election officials (travel.state.gov).

There has been quite a bit of discourse around mail in voting for the 2020 Presidential Election, but fear not! Washington had already established mail-in voting As long as you are registered to vote before October 26, 2020, you will receive a ballot in the mail to whatever your current address is in the government database, emphasizing the importance of keeping your address up to date (howto.vote). While the rule is to mail in your ballot so that it is date-stamped by election date, there are budget cuts going on to the United States Post Office, so it is best to mail in your ballot before election day to be assured it arrives in time to have your vote counted. So, if you can, vote in person! But if you are worried about your health, or the health of those around you (which is a totally valid concern, especially in this time), just know the cautions you must take with mail in voting in 2020.

Here is a map of all the voting centers in Thurston County so that you can find one close and convenient to you! https://www.thurstoncountywa.gov/auditor/Pages/elections-maps.aspx

 

by Brianna Crites, Sarah Pettit, and Kate Ryle