The Right to Vote

Ever notice how the more things change, the more they stay the same?  Here we are, in the 21st century, and still dealing with challenges that may affect the ability to vote.  Such challenges are not new, and what is fortunate is, every time there has been an attempt to staunch the tide of voters making their voices heard, there has been a remedy in favor of voters.

Today it might be easy to forget that the right to vote did not come easy for many.  Women and minority groups throughout this country had to fight very hard for that privilege.  This was not so very long ago.  Women didn’t have the right to vote until 1920, and while it was deemed that men could be allowed to vote, that did not apply to all men.

For African Americans, Native Americans, Asians and Hispanics, there were a myriad of manipulations by those in power that prevented them from casting their vote at polls.  Finally, organized groups of citizens realized litigation was necessary to ensure they had the same access to the polls as others did.  Even still, the use of litigation continued to be necessary for many years to counteract the assortment of strategic discriminatory practices employed in many regions of the United States.  In the process many good people lost their lives.  The Civil Rights act of 1964 as well as the Voting Rights act of 1965 signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson was a major step that changed things for those in minority communities and led the way for the freedom to vote for everyone, among other things.

Okay.  The history lesson is over; however, it is a lesson well worth remembering as we consider the upcoming presidential election in November 2012.  Many may not be aware of the fact that in order to cast your vote from this day forward, it will be required to present a state sanctioned, valid, photo identification.  That might not seem significant to some of us, but when you consider the impact of this recent guideline, you might come to the conclusion that those affected by this are predominately members of minority communities across the United States.  It used to be that one could present a utility bill, which verified the current address, or could update their voter registration at the polling place, as well as present a college-issued photo ID in order to vote.  Not anymore.  Married women who need current state identification need to secure certified copies of marriage certificates as well as birth certificates that are corrected in order to obtain a new state photo ID card.

So accordingly, those most affected by this new regulation are out of state college students, African Americans, Latinos, Asians and women of all races.  Sound familiar?  It ought to.  Some of you might be thinking; “But who doesn’t already have a state issued photo ID?  After all you need it for a bank account, most jobs, and to cash a check at a banking institution.”  While that may be true, consider those who get paid under the table, and those who don’t have bank accounts and utilize check cashing establishments in order to cash their checks.  Each and every one of us might currently know someone who does not own a state sanctioned photo ID.

We need to spread the word.  Don’t take for granted that everyone in your circle of family and friends has a valid, meaning up to date, state sanctioned photo ID, and certainly don’t take for granted that everyone is aware of this new regulation.  Be proactive!  We cannot afford to forget the lessons of the past when it comes to the right to vote.  Those of us who do may find themselves victimized by being turned away at the polling place, as so many have been in the history of the United States.

Remember, understand, and react. Please!

By Susan W. Coleman ~ contributing writer for Shawna’s House Inc. Blog

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