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

 

 

 

Sunday Gratitude: The Vote

Thank you to the men and women who fought for and won my right to vote this November 6.

Thank you Victoria Claflin Woodhull, the first Woman to run for President, 1872

small public domain B&W photo of Victoria Claflin Woodhull
Victoria Claflin Woodhull,

“I come before you to declare that my sex are entitled to the inalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Victoria Claflin Woodhull

Photograph of Victoria Claflin Woodhull, Suffragette
Victoria Claflin Woodhull, Suffragette

I shall not change my course because those who assume to be better than I desire it. Victoria Claflin Woodhull

Digital painting of Victoria Claflin Woodhull based on a photograph in the public domain

 

America: Our Self Inflicted Wounds

This is a companion piece to my podcast on Annette Aben’s Tell Me a Story.

The first charge against King George III in one of the most pivotal rants in
human history is that he refused to abide by the law:

“He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for  the public good.”

A cartoon depicting a corrupt King George 111
King George III awash in payoffs while the people suffer.

This idea that no one is above the law drives the evolution of American Democracy:

“Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”  Abraham Lincoln, The Gettysburg Address.

Everyone is a human being and all human beings are equal before the law,

and equally protected by it:

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws. 14th Amendment

In 1948, the United States co-authored and signed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which included Franklin Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms: Freedom from Want, Freedom from Fear, Freedom of Speech, and Freedom of Worship.

Eleanor Roosevelt the Declaration of Human Rights

From the Preamble to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,

Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people,

Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law,

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights

 

America’s Self inflicted Wounds

Photograph of a homeless woman sleeping in front of Whole Foods on Market and Dolores in San Francisco 2018
Market at Dolores Street, San Francisco 2018

When George W. Bush declared the end of the war in Iraq most
people knew there were no weapons of mass destruction.

Americans were still dying in Iraq when the voters made Bush President
again in 2004.

Blackberry photograph of a poster made after Barack Obama's first presidency with the caption 'Yes we did."
Yes we did

“When the United States stands up for human rights, by example at home and by effort abroad, we align ourselves with men and women around the world who struggle for the right to speak their minds, to choose their leaders, and to be treated with dignity and respect. We also strengthen our security and well being, because the abuse of human rights can feed many of the global dangers that we confront — from armed conflict and humanitarian crises, to corruption and the spread of ideologies that promote hatred and violence.”

– Barack Obama, Statement on Human Rights Day 2008

When Barack Obama became President he chose not investigate the U.S.
Invasion of Iraq.

Our leaders will not always make the right the decisions and that’s why
lethal actions based on false information requires accountability.

We don’t heal the nation when we hide from our mistakes, we make it sick.

Devin Nunes commits treason behind closed doors.
Nunes: We’re the only ones who can save Trump from the Constitution and the Rule of Law

We make ourselves vulnerable to corruption and the spread of ideologies that promote hatred and violence.

To have faith in the American Democracy is to live with ambiguity.

America will never be perfect at living up to our ideals and we must never
stop trying.

We must have faith in our innate morality as expressions of the divine; as
beings endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights.

Click to hear my podcast on Tell Me a Story.

(c) Rob Goldstein 2018

 

11 Beautiful Minds of The 20th Century

Eleven brilliant and courageous men and women.

1.

Pablo Neruda
July 12, 1904-September 23, 1973

Art by Rob Goldstein
Pablo Neruda Ricardo Reyes as a young man

I want to eat the sunbeam flaring in your lovely body,
the sovereign nose of your arrogant face,
I want to eat the fleeting shade of your lashes,

and I pace around hungry, sniffing the twilight,
hunting for you, for your hot heart,
like a puma in the barrens of Quitratue.

~ Pablo Neruda

2.

Norma Jeane Mortenson
June 1, 1926-August 5, 1962

Art by Rob Goldstein
Portrait of Norma Jeane Mortenson

I am not a victim of emotional conflicts. I am human.
Norma Jeane Mortenson

3.

Harvey Milk
May 22, 1930 – November 27, 1978

 

Art By Rob Goldstein

“All men are created equal. No matter how hard they try, they can never erase those words. That is what America is about.”
Harvey Milk, The Harvey Milk Interviews: In His Own Words

4.

el-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz
May 19, 1925 – February 21, 1965

 

Art by Rob Goldstein
Malcolm X


“I’m for truth, no matter who tells it. I’m for justice, no matter who it is for or against. I’m a human being, first and foremost, and as such I’m for whoever and whatever benefits humanity as a whole.”
Malcolm X

5.

Nina Simone

February 21, 1933 – April 21, 2003

Art by Rob Goldstein
Nina Simone

“I am just one of the people who is sick of the social order, sick of the establishment, sick to my soul of it all. To me, America’s society is nothing but a cancer, and it must be exposed before it can be cured. I am not the doctor to cure it. All I can do is expose the sickness.”
Nina Simone

6.

John Fitzgerald Kennedy
May 29, 1917 – November 22, 1963

Art by Rob Goldstein
John Fitzgerald Kennedy

“If by a “Liberal” they mean someone who looks ahead and not behind, someone who welcomes new ideas without rigid reactions, someone who cares about the welfare of the people-their health, their housing, their schools, their jobs, their civil rights and their civil liberties-someone who believes we can break through the stalemate and suspicions that grip us in our policies abroad, if that is what they mean by a “Liberal”, then I’m proud to say I’m a “Liberal.”
John F. Kennedy, Profiles in Courage

7.

Martin Luther King, Jr.
January 15, 1929- April 4, 1968

Art By Rob Goldstein
Dr. Martin Luther King

There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe nor politic nor popular, but he must take it because his conscience tells him it is right.  Martin Luther King, Jr.

8.

Jean Maurice Eugène Clément Cocteau
July 5, 1889 – 11 October 11, 1963

Art by Rob Goldstein
Jean Cocteau

The poet is a liar who always speaks the truth.
Jean Cocteau

9.

Frank O’Hara
March 27, 1926 – July 25, 1966

 

Art by Rob Goldstein
Frank O’Hara


“I wonder if the course of narcissism through the ages would have been any different had Narcissus first peered into a cesspool. He probably did.”
Frank O’Hara, Early Writing

10.

Simone de Beauvoir
January 9, 1908 – April 14, 1986

 

Art by Rob Goldstein
Simone de Beauvoir


Life is occupied in both perpetuating itself and in surpassing itself; if all it does is maintain itself, then living is only not dying. Simone de Beauvoir

11.

Jean Genet
December 19, 1910-April 15, 1986

 

Art by Rob Goldstein
Jean Genet

What I did not yet know so intensely was the hatred of the white American for the black, a hatred so deep that I wonder if every white man in this country, when he plants a tree, doesn’t see Negroes hanging from its branches.  Jean Genet

 

Disclaimer: To the best of my knowledge the images on this page are in the public domain.

Header photo, Portrait of Malcolm X, by Rob Goldstein (c) 2016

Blog post update July, 2018

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