Saturday, February 22, 2014

"Just A Thought" Column continues in La Prensa of SA, 2-23

Just a Thought: Cast Your Ballot
By Steve Walker

We are currently in the midst of a Primary Election where we are casting our votes for preferential candidates for Judges, Representatives, the Governor, Lt. Governor and many other offices that appear on the ballot. This year it is a long list of people seeking higher office.

Candidates from both the Republican and Democratic Party are choosing their candidates to best represent their issues and platforms for the upcoming General Election in November.

Looking back at the history of voting in our country, it is interesting and informative to say the least.

Back in the beginning of our country in 1787 only white males over 21 who owned property were able to vote. It took the country until 1843 to allow all white men over 21 to vote. Progress comes slowly.

For you History buffs who may have forgotten it took until 1870 to pass the 15th amendment to guarantee the right to vote to all men 21 and older regardless of race or ethnic background. That included freed slaves.

Imagine the excitement in 1920 when women over 21 were finally allowed to vote with the passage of the 19th Amendment. It was only after they protested and marched en masse did they receive the right to vote. Today 52 percent of the eligible voters are women and more women are being elected to serve.

It wasn’t until 1964 when I graduated high school that the 24th Amendment made it illegal for states to charge poll tax to voters and in 1965, the Voting Rights Act authorized the federal government to oversee voting that had discriminated and prevented blacks and other minorities from registering to vote or cast their ballots.

Up to that point they did so through usage of literacy tests, grandfather clauses, and intimidation tactics. Can you imagine today having to take a literacy test to prove you have the right to vote? How the accessibility to vote has changed over the years. Makes you appreciate the right and responsibility to cast your ballot.

In 1971 while I was still serving in Viet Nam, the 26th Amendment lowered the voting age across the nation to 18. I voted for president in 1968 when I was 21 years old.  It was only in 1982 the Voting Rights Act Amendments, allowed further provisions for Americans with disabilities, voters not able to read and write, and those not fluent in English were added to insure their freedoms.

Over the years I have read numerous people complain that their vote doesn’t really count. From a historical view that includes other countries we can also see the power of just one vote does indeed make a difference.

For example in 1776 one vote gave America the English language instead of German and in 1868 one vote saved President Andrew Johnson from impeachment.

In 1876 one vote gave Rutherford B. Hayes the Presidency of the United States of America. Finally in 1923 one vote gave Adolf Hitler leadership of the Nazi Party and in 1941 one vote saved the Selective Service - just weeks before Pearl Harbor was attacked. As one who signed up with the selective service (aka Draft Board) at 18 and was sent three draft notices in the 60s, I can identify with that.

Amazing what one vote can do in an election. So the next time you go to the polls remember your vote does count and can make a difference on who wins or loses. You are encouraged to vote March 4th or early vote in the primary of your choice.

If not there will be other candidates on the General Election ballot in November as well representing other independent parties. It is your choice. If you don’t vote someone else will vote and decide our elected officials. Be a part of the process and go Vote!

And as always, what I write is “Just a Thought.”  

Steve Walker is a Vietnam Veteran and former Justice of the Peace and Journalist.

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