By Yuri Kim
Voting is a duty that should be mandated of Americans as citizens to the United States of America. Politics are without question involved in every citizen’s life, from local to state.
It is mind boggling when many Americans choose not to vote because they believe their vote does not matter.
Back in the 2012 presidential election between incumbent Barack Obama and Republican hopeful Mitt Romney, out of the 219,311,000 registered voters, 126,144,000 voted. That’s an absence of nearly 93 million reported eligible voters living in the United States
And now in this recent election in 2016 between Democrat candidate Hillary Clinton and Republican candidate Donald Trump, a shocking 97 million eligible voters did not vote. That’s a 58 percent drop from the 2012 presidential election. Trump emerged as the winner because he won 290 electoral votes compared to Clinton’s 228. However, Clinton won the popular vote by about 2 million with 53.5% compared to Trump’s 46.5%.
For the 2016 election especially, many voters were torn between choosing either candidate. Voters basically picked one candidate because they did not want the other as president. Clinton was viewed as better capable with foreign policy, while Americans angered with the federal government’s handling of the economy viewed Trump as better able to improve the economy.
For such an important event that determines the leadership of our country, one would think that Americans would at least put in their opinion of who should govern their country.
And, one would think that Americans would at least put in their opinion when they consider the struggle of blood and tears that many have faced in order to give every citizen the right to vote.
Minorities including African Americans struggled to put their vote in the ballot. Although legally African Americans could vote at the passing of the 13th Amendment, racist state legislatures throughout the 20th century aimed to prevent them from putting in their vote.
States in the South beginning in the 1880s enforced Jim Crow laws (laws that institutionalized segregation between whites and minorities). White politicians in the South sought to bar African Americans from having a voice in government by creating poll taxes and literacy tests.
Also, racist groups such as the Ku Klux Klan terrorized African Americans with lynching (mob violence) to deter African Americans from voting or participating in any role in government. As well as African Americans, whites supportive of African Americans’ rights were targeted. In Meridian, Mississippi in 1871 for example, Klansmen killed a white Republican judge and two African American defendants in his courtroom. Their tactics worked; African American voters in the South were almost nonexistent. In Mississippi, for example at the end of the 1950s, 45% of the state’s population were African American, but only 5% of that population were registered to vote.
It was not until the passing of the Voting Rights Act signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1965 that finally outlawed discrimination on the basis of one’s skin color. The act effectively franchised 20 million African Americans to vote, and it opened office to African Americans for the first time since the early 20th century.
Minorities shared this voting struggle with women. Until the early 20th century, only men could vote in elections in the US. Suffragette Alice Paul’s National Women’s Party(NWP) fervently fought for the right of women to vote; they were force-fed in prison because they went on hunger strikes.
Strong opposition in the US Congress did not deter the NWP and other suffragette groups; after a hard fought series of votes in the federal government and state legislatures, the 19th Amendment was passed on August 18th, 1920.
Voting may seem like a boring task, but it is a powerful gift to choose one’s future for their country. And, it is paying homage to those who have labored against odds to create a better future for later generations.