- To ensure that the sacrifices of those that came before us and fought so hard for this right are not in vain, do your civic duty and register to vote.
Though many continue to take our democracy for granted by choosing not to vote as seen with low voter turnout in 2016, the right to vote was a hard-fought battle as women in the United States were not able to vote until August 18, 1920 when the 19th amendment was ratified. With the 100th anniversary of the ratification of this amendment approaching, we must reflect on our history, privilege, and duties as Americans.
From the Seneca Falls Convention till the passage of the 19th amendment, women fought an uphill battle for the right to make their voices heard and be represented. In 1870, Black men gained the right to vote, but the nation still discriminated against all female voters. Notable suffragettes like Alice Paul, who was jailed and force-fed with a feeding tube due to her hunger strike, endured great pain and suffering, mentally and physically for this right. However, when women gained the right to vote in America, this right was not universal.
Despite the dedication of Black suffragettes, like Ida B. Wells, their white counterparts excluded them from the movement and even refused to march beside them in many instances. During the Seneca Falls Convention, the launch of the women’s suffrage movement, no Black women were invited to attend, and the attendees consisted of only white women and men. Laws such as grandfather clauses, literacy tests, and poll taxes, prevented African Americans and other non-white people, like Native Americans and Asian Americans, from voting. Jim Crow laws continued to be enforced and white supremacist intimidation and lynchings in the South kept Black people from the polls. Not until the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965, did minority women gain the ability to vote.
However, voter suppression continues to prevail in the United States, preventing racial minorities from voting. With voter ID laws, voter purges, and the closing of polling locations, eligible voters are stripped of the ability to cast their vote. Beyond these examples, over 6.1 million Americans are disenfranchised due to the fact that they are convicted for felony offenses, disproportionately affecting BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and people of color) individuals. Beyond the loss of this right due to race, disabled Americans are also affected by this issue. Over 60% of polling centers cannot accommodate people with disabilities.
With the elections quickly approaching, it is important that those with the ability to vote and access to polling centers, cast their vote. Of 231, 556, 622 eligible voters in 2016, 46.9% did not vote. Millennials and Gen Z account for over 42% of the nation’s population, making the youth vote extremely decisive in this election. However, in 2016, only about 19% of individuals aged between 18 and 29 voted. By voting, you are able to have a say about issues that affect you every day, from where your tax money is being spent to how your local government is dealing with crises like climate change.
In the 21st century, it is easier than ever to register to vote, check that your registration is up to date, and learn about the candidates up and down your ballot. Websites like vote.org, whenweallvote.org, and rockthevote.org, make the process extremely efficient. To ensure that the sacrifices of those that came before us and fought so hard for this right are not in vain, do your civic duty and register to vote. Your vote may help elect leaders that will put an end to voter suppression and gerrymandering in America, helping those less fortunate than yourself vote and make their voices heard.
Ishani Peddi is a senior at Starr’s Mill High School in Peachtree City, Georgia. Born and raised in Southern California, she moved to Georgia last year. She has been writing as long as she can remember and published a fictional work in middle school. A passionate poet, who has won numerous literary competitions, Ishani is involved in various clubs and organizations within her school and community. She is the Communications Director for the Georgia High School Democrats, the Vice President of the Starr’s Mill High School Young Democrats, the Secretary of the Young Democrats of Georgia AAPI Caucus, a Civil Air Patrol Cadet, a Fellow at the Democratic Party of Georgia, and an AAPIs for Biden Intern, to name a few.