Rosa Parks after her Arrest for refusing to give her seat to a white person.

Sunday’s Meditation: What is the Right to Vote?

Imagine you live in a World with a law that you must stand if someone from a different self-described ‘master race’ demands your seat on a crowded bus.

Now imagine you have no power to change the laws that govern your life.

American democracy is a new idea based on hope.

The new idea is self-government; the hope is that we will govern wisely.

Portrait of a young African-American woman who was working as a voter registration volunteer on Church Street in San Francisco
“Do you vote?’ She asked

Everything about our government, good and bad, is a result of the express and covert will of those who vote or don’t vote; if you disagree with a law on your state’s ballot, a non-vote means you agree.

If Americans don’t like a law, we can petition the government to change it or we can challenge it in the courts. If that fails, we can vote to change the law, state by state, as we are doing now with marijuana.

infographic 2018 states where it's legal to smoke weed
States where it’s legal to smoke marijuana

That’s not how American Democracy began

Scene at the Signing of the Constitution of the United States, by Howard Chandler Christy

On June 21, 1788, when the states ratified the Constitution of the United States, states limited the vote to property-owning or tax-paying white men, or roughly 6% of over three million people. (1790 census)

Single property-owning women “worth fifty pounds” could vote in New Jersey between 1776 and 1807 before the vote was restricted to white men. In 1838, Kentucky allowed widows with school-age children to vote in school elections, and Kansas followed in 1861. (History)

At the time of the American Civil War, most states adopted universal suffrage for white men, but states used literacy tests, poll taxes, and religious tests to limit the vote.

Most people of color, and Native Americans could not vote.

Jews, Quakers, and Catholics were excluded from voting and holding public office.

Maryland excluded candidates who failed to affirm faith in an afterlife from holding public office; this law was aimed at Jews.

In 1856, North Carolina was the last state to drop property ownership as a voting requirement.

In 1860 Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and North Carolina required voters to pay taxes before casting a vote.

American women won the right to vote in 1920.

Poster for a 1913 Women's March for the vote.
Poster for a 1913 Women’s March for the vote.

African-Americans in the South would face voter intimidation, Jim Crow laws, literacy tests and poll taxes until the Voting Rights Act of 1965, signed into law by Democratic President, Lyndon B. Johnson.

The Supreme Court in Harper v. Virginia Board of Elections ruled in 1966 to prohibit tax payment and wealth requirements for voting in state elections.

Public domain photo of Lyndon Johnson signing the Civil Rights Act
Lyndon Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act

The fight to keep the right to vote continues…

As of 2018, the United States is among the most punitive nations in denying the vote to citizens convicted of a felony offense.

Alabama – A person convicted of a felony loses the ability to vote if the felony involves moral turpitude.

Arizona – Restores voting rights to first-time felony offenders. Others must petition.

Delaware Certain crimes require a pardon for the right to vote: murder or manslaughter, an offense against public administration involving bribery or improper influence or abuse of office anywhere in the USA, or a felony sexual offense (anywhere in the USA)

Mississippi – The crimes that disqualify a person from voting as stated in Section 241 of the state constitution are murder, rape, bribery, theft, arson, obtaining money or goods under false pretense, perjury, forgery, embezzlement or bigamy.

Nevada – First time and non-violent offenders may petition a court of competent jurisdiction for an order granting the restoration of his or her civil rights.

Tennessee – A person convicted of certain felonies may not regain voting rights except through pardon. These felonies include murder, rape, treason, and voting fraud.

Wyoming – As of July 1, 2003, first-time, non-violent offenders have to wait 5 years before applying to the state parole board for restoration of suffrage. The parole board has the discretion to decide whether to reinstate rights on an individual basis.

Florida –In cases of less serious crimes, disenfranchisement ends 5 years after completion of terms of incarceration, completion of parole and completion of probation.  In cases of serious crimes, the wait is 7 years and the Florida Executive Clemency Board decides after receiving an application from the ex-offender. The effect of Florida’s law is such that in 2014 more than one in ten Floridians – and nearly one in four African-American Floridians – are shut out of the polls because of felony convictions.

Iowa Voting rights can ONLY be restored through an individual petition or application to the government.

Kentucky – Only the governor can reinstate Civil Rights. The ex-offender must complete “Application for Restoration of Civil Rights”

Virginia – Only the governor can reinstate civil rights.

The United States doesn’t claim perfection: Americans are a flawed people and we make mistakes; but Americans have a history of coming together to try to govern wisely.

 

a rainbow graphic that reads Vote This November 6
Vote This November 6

Let’s come together and vote in droves this year.

 

 

 

 

Rob Goldstein 2018, I do not own the images in this post

Sources

Encyclopedia Britannica

Wikipedia

Nonprofit VOTE

The U.S. Census Bureau

 

 

 

38 thoughts on “Sunday’s Meditation: What is the Right to Vote?

  1. Like Donna here my fellow Canadian, I too voted in our municipal elections, admittedly, something I never used to do – only the big ones, but that was until I saw what not voting did to the US. I will never not vote again. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Amen to that Rob. But you are not the dirty one, don’t be hard on yourself, just keep spreading the messages like I do. Nov 6th matters to the world, not just America! #Voteblue like your life depends on it, BECAUSE IT DOES!!!! ❤

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Oh, I intend to vote but that feeling of dirtiness has to do with the fact that the United States two years into an illegitimate presidency that our political system is too corrupt to end. The only reason Trump continues to shred our country is a corrupt elite who think they have the right to own everything. They have literally betrayed our country and dared the American people to stop them.
        So, stop them we must. Voting is the only way to feel clean again. At least for me.

        Like

  2. I’m sorry Robert…but I’ve been having problems with my email …my passwords..the whole is a real mess…ive tried to address it but all I do is get deeper into the mess

    Like

      1. Oh Robert part of the problem was yahoo mail….im,sorry that you are having problems finding me that’s why I try to reach out to people…my world is slowing down Robert my health is like a shit sand -which..nothing is working to its optima for me right now and hasn’t been…i have a procedure coming up on the 8th of next month because I can’t swallow…ive lost mobility in my right hand and can’t do my art…cuz I’m right handed…the blog is the least of my problem go on Instagram you’ll find me there…as I said my world is getting smaller by the days

        Liked by 1 person

      1. When people leave comments there is usually a link to their wordpress blog just below the name, below that an email address and below that the DNS address. The link to your blog is missing. When I run a search of get no results. This doesn’t happen all the time but it happens frequently. It’s like your blog appears and vanishes and reappears. It’s Halloweeny in a way.

        Like

  3. I may be a bit of a nerd, but I love to vote, I feel like I’m not just doing my duty, but it’s a privilege – seriously, we just had a municipal election and only 37% of the people eligible to vote did so. Come on, how can you be part of a society and not care what happens or worse, complain about it and don’t vote? This is a wonderful post, I’ve shared all over the place and thanks for bringing it to my blog party!!! Bring more, bring more!!! 😉 Oh and everyone, get out there and vote – it’s fun!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I’ve have family in town, a birthday coming up, therapeutic breakthroughs, insomnia, internal struggles over the worth of my writing, and I alternate between loathing and fear over the mess this country has made of itself, but other than that I’m cool. 🙂

        Like

      2. Happy future birthday! I share the insomnia thing. Will probably go nuts eventually.
        Your writing is WONDERFUL!
        And yes…the fear and loathing over the “mess” is shared by many.
        😘

        Liked by 1 person

I appreciate your comments, though I can’t always reply immediately

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