Voting is a cornerstone of any bona fide democracy. Voting makes you a citizen instead of a subject. Elections can seem hopeless, with an outdated system that oppresses all who do not fit the old U.S. mold of straight, White, able-bodied, stable-minded, and wealthy. Furthermore, having to choose between an alleged rapist, misogynist, and a liar, or senator who voted for mass incarceration of Black people, can make someone feel like they are caught between a rock and a hard place. However, knowing that thousands upon thousands of people in this country died in defense of our right to vote, and that there are those who lived and never got to vote, it’s difficult to not take this election seriously.
Elections may seem ineffective, but that’s no reason not to participate or take it seriously. When one holds their ballot and is presented with the choice of selecting the lesser of the two evils, one must remember all who never had the opportunity to vote. Let’s take a quick look at the U.S.’s history of voting rights.
The first election in the U.S. was held in December of 1788, to January of 1789. President George Washington won by a landslide. However, his vote was not well represented. During this time, women weren’t allowed to vote, nor could people of color.
After Lincoln’s assassination, Reconstruction (post-Civil War) was left to President Andrew Johnson. During Reconstruction, Frederick Douglas declared, “Slavery is not abolished until the Black man has the ballot.” Johnson was more lenient with southern states and their ideals, which led to southern states adopting Black Codes and, later, Jim Crow laws. This Resulted in Black people being unable to vote after the 13th Amendment was passed. Douglas wouldn’t get his wish granted until after President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act in 1966, which banned literacy tests and other measures taken to heed the Black vote.
Of course, there is another group of people who were unable to vote for a long time: women. In 1920, women gained the right to vote. That was only 100 years ago. To put that in perspective, our country is 244 years old. Clearly, gaining the right to vote was not easy for anyone who was not a rich, White man.
Suffragettes in protests would attack property, which often landed them in jail. Many of them participated in hunger strikes — an incredibly dangerous form of individual, peaceful protest, which was answered by brutal doctors and force-feeding. Women voters today feel the resilience and the bravery of the women who were arrested, shunned, and nearly died when going to the polls.
The issue of voting even comes in through the food we eat; the fresh produce we consume comes from undocumented Latinx immigrants who cannot vote. Yet, they are continuously harassed by ICE. The U.S. has made it almost impossible to gain citizenship, yet they rely on immigrants from Mexico and Central America to pick their produce.
The right to vote must be taken seriously, since many people do not have the right to do so. We must have their say in order to account for the entire country’s vast array of opinions. The system works when everyone’s voice is properly accounted for.
Being a non-voter in our democratic republic is a choice; a choice to obtain and to be a subject. When you don’t vote, you lose your right to complain. You give up your civic duty. It is estimated that only 32 million Latinx people in the U.S. are eligible to vote, when 60.6 million Latinx people live here.
I think “Douche and Turd,” episode 8 of South Park, did a wonderful job commenting on major American elections. This is mainly due to the fact that, most of the time, it appears as though we have to choose between a douche and a turd in elections. Just because the options are substandard doesn’t mean we get to let go of our responsibility of voting. In 2020, we must choose between the lesser of the two evils. We must fight to make this country function in a way that prevents us from being the laughing stock of the world.
Vote in this election and in every election. Vote not only for yourself, but for those who cannot vote. Be a voice for people who are unable to be heard.
Featured Image: Courtesy of Michael Bryant / The Inquirer