One Woman’s Journey to Make Her Vote, Her Voice
“Ensuring the voices of those we serve are heard in the democratic process”
Voting is the most basic action in a democratic society. A government that is elected by its citizens effects every aspect of our lives from schools, to health care, to our roadways, to the use of our taxes. According to the New York Times, “this year’s election carries enormous political stakes, nevertheless if United States history is any monitor, the vast majority of eligible voters will stay home on Election Day.”
Susan B. Anthony was a pioneer crusader for the woman suffrage movement in the United States. During America’s early history, women were denied some of the basic rights enjoyed by male citizens. For example, married women couldn’t own property and had no legal claim to any money they might earn, and no female had the right to vote. Women were expected to focus on housework and motherhood, not politics.
Susan grew up in a politically active family. They worked to end slavery in what was called the abolitionist movement. They were also part of the temperance movement, which wanted the production and sale of alcohol limited or stopped completely. Anthony was inspired to fight for women’s rights while campaigning against alcohol. She was denied a chance to speak at a temperance convention because she was a woman.
Susan later realized that no one would take women in politics seriously unless they had the right to vote. She was tireless in her efforts, giving speeches around the country to convince others to support a woman’s right to vote. When Susan Anthony died on March 13, 1906, women still did not have the right to vote. It wasn’t until 1920, 14 years after her death, that the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, giving all adult women the right to vote, was passed.
ELIGIBLE VOTERS TODAY
Just over a third of eligible voters turned out across the country in the last midterm elections, the lowest share since 1942, according to Michael McDonald, a political scientist at the University of Florida, who runs the United States Elections Project that tracks voting data back to 1789. According to Dr. McDonald’s analysis of responses to the Census Bureau from 2000 to 2016 the US voter states that unfortunately “People typically cite one of two reasons for why they do not vote in midterm elections: they are too busy or not interested.”
“In consolidated elections, our turnout very rarely gets above 20 percent. Voters just don’t seem to vote in the consolidated elections,” Stacey Bixby, the executive director of the Rockford Board of Elections states.
“There is a class skew that is fundamental and very worrying,” states Alexander Keyssar, a historian at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, who wrote “The Right to Vote.” “Parts of society remain tuned out and don’t feel like active citizens. There is this sense of disengagement and powerlessness.” The effect, he feels, has been a more unequal society and “more of a gap between what we say this country is about and what it really is.”
HELPING TO INSURE, THAT YOUR VOTE, IS YOUR VOICE
Over the many past decades, several races in in elections were decided by a few dozen votes. There have been local elections where a single vote has determined the winner. Your vote does matter. So what can one vote do? It can facilitate change. It can amplify every voice. It can provide an organized process. Voting with your ballot will provide a simplified, well-thought-out way of eliciting opinions and tabulating results for the future of our community, the state and our country.
The United Way and League of Women Voters say they want to make sure voters in some of Rockford’s economically challenged areas have all the information they need before heading to the polls. “We target those areas because they are the ones that need to hear it the most,” Gina Meeks, the Labor Engagement Manager with United Way of Rock River Valley states. “They are the areas that have such a low voter turnout historically.”
Our democracy is built on checks and balances, and the midterm elections are one of those checks.
Together, we must all use our united voice to secure the future for students, our families, our residents and constituents in our community.
Perhaps, now is the time to contemplate the historical sacrifices of the Civil Rights Movement, women’s suffrage, and the basic freedoms weaved into our Constitution. If this is what you believe, it is time to consider how delicate our Republic truly is and also perhaps value the role of a healthy two-party system that offers an effervescent independent alternative. If you want to hold accountable those who would speak for you and all of us, then there has never been a better time for your vote, your voice!
Resources & References
Collection Items: The Library of Congress
“Local groups try to boost voter turnout among some of Rockford’s most vulnerable areas”