1776, 1870, 1920, 1965: Important dates in our nation’s history for they represent not only independence from Britain, but establishing rights in a democratic society. With the passing of the 15th Amendment, the 19th Amendment, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, all American citizens, regardless of gender or skin color, were granted the right to have a share in the democratic process.
Yet today, over 50 years since president Lyndon Johnson passed that momentous act, the turnout at the polls is “decried as dismal” (Pewresearch.org). In the 2012 Presidential election, for example, only 53.6% of eligible voters cast a vote. Such statistics put the United States at 31st out of 35 countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, “most of whose members are highly developed, democratic states” (Pewresearch.org). In Japan, for instance, 99% of individuals eligible to vote age are registered compared with the U.S.’s 65%.
Who can forget the scenes played out on national television when Saudi Arabian women finally received the right and opportunity to vote? Or Iraqis proudly showing off their ink stained forefinger as proof of their vote? Yet as Election Day draws near, millions of Americans will avoid the polls and neglect a right that so many fought for. Whatever your reason for not exercising a privilege that others dream of having, this fundamental right that every American citizen possesses should be celebrated by proudly visiting a place for voting. Honoring and remembering those who blazed a trail for this right should be embraced as so many have sought our shores and continue to do so in hopes that one day they, too, will experience this right and privilege.