November 5, 2013

Giving Thanks for Voting and Veterans

By Eloise Graham

Tuesday, November 5, 2013 is the day for general elections. There is not a lot of fan-fare this year, but the right to vote is just as important as any other year. We seem to take this right to vote for granted and only vote in the “big” elections. Well, voting in America was not always guaranteed for all during our first 200 years of its history. Many Americans have had to fight for this right.

Universal suffrage –letting everyone vote – did not appear overnight with the ratification of our Constitution. Two hundred some years ago, you had to be white, male and wealthy to vote. That accounted for only about 15 percent of the population. Some states had varying laws; women were allowed to vote in New Jersey until 1807, a few Northern states allowed non-white males to vote, but almost every state required that a voter be a land owner. In 1841, Rhode Island resident, Thomas Dorr, helped draft a state constitution that any white male, rich or poor, over the age of 21, be allowed to vote.

In 1917, a 60-year-old nurse, a wealthy widow from Philadelphia’s high society, a quiet determined Quaker lady with a Ph.D. and a few wives of important Washington newspapermen found themselves in jail for insistently and loudly demanding that American women be given the right to vote. In 1920, the 19th Amendment to the Constitution passed granting women the right to vote.

In 1870, African American men were granted the right to vote, but many states put restrictions on them, such as charging a poll tax that might be as much as half their pay if they voted. Most did not vote. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 mandated that restrictions of poll tax or other taxes could not be implemented to discourage voting.

The age of majority was changed in 1966 from 21 to 18. This came about because of the draft and the Viet Nam War. Many protested that if one could be drafted at age 18 and go fight for their country, they should be allowed to vote.

So on this election day, the first Tuesday in November, go to the polls and exercise your freedom that many have fought for you to have!

Monday, November 11, 2013 is Veteran’s Day. Originally, this day was called Armistice Day. The year was 1918, an implementation of armistice between the Allies and Germany was signed at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. This was at the end of World War I, then known as The Great War because no one could fathom another war!

But we did have more wars, with more veterans to honor. Over the next 60 years, the name was changed, and the dates of observance were changed. Finally, in 1978, the observance went back to the original eleventh day of the eleventh month, but would now include ALL veterans that had served in the military.

So, in this month of Thanksgiving, give thanks for our freedom to vote and to the veterans that have fought for our freedoms! America – even with our faults, it is still a great place to be!

Filed Under: History