A new year holds the promise of a new beginning and positive change. If you make one resolution this year, resolve to vote. Recently in Virginia elections, we have been reminded that every single vote counts. In one House of Delegates race the difference between the two major candidates was around 100 votes. In another it was a tie with over 11,000 votes on each side!
Our history of voting rights is fascinating. White males who own property have been able to vote since the early days of the United States. Different states have had changing laws. Some let women who owned property vote and then took that right away. Some let freed slaves vote and then took that right away.
In Virginia changes in voting rights have come from amendments to the U.S. Constitution. The 15th amendment of 1870 said that voting rights could not be denied based on race, color, or previous condition of servitude. Voting rights for women were included in the 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1920. However the conservative southern Virginia General Assembly did not ratify the 19th amendment until 1952. In Virginia a poll tax was put in place in 1902 and not banned until 1964 by the 24th amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Prior to that if you were too poor to pay the tax, you were not allowed to vote. If your voting rights have been restricted check to see if they have been restored. It happens more often than you think that rights were restored many years ago and the person simply does not know. Take the time to find out and if not apply to get them back. No matter who you are, people literally died so you could have the right to vote. Respect their sacrifice enough to exercise that right at every opportunity.
As a country we perform poorly in voter turnout when compared with other developed countries and come in around #14. In November 2016 only about 58% of registered voters turned out to vote while other countries hit near 90%. In Virginia in November 2017 only 46% of registered voters bothered to go to the polls. We can do better. Let’s show the country how a record turnout is done in Virginia on November 6, 2018 and start with Louisa County!
The founders of our country envisioned a participatory democracy and Virginia has a very short history of allowing everyone to take part. So this year resolve to participate by voting. Maintaining freedom requires your effort. Find out who is on your ballot ahead of time and what their platform is. Make an informed choice. Take your child or a friend with you when you go to your polling place. Vote in the primaries. Vote for your local offices like town council, school board, and board of supervisor. Vote for your U.S. Representative and your U.S. Senator. Bea voter, get your sticker, and have your voice heard. Mark it on your calendar right now and make this a New Year’s resolution that you keep.
Editor's Note: A different version of this letter originally appeared in the January 4th edition of Louisa County's paper of record, the Central Virginian, and has been reposted on this blog with the author's permission.