“Nobody will ever deprive the American people of the right to vote except the American people themselves and the only way they could do this is by not voting.” ~ Franklin D. Roosevelt
Many Americans have taken their voting freedom for granted and either have stopped voting due to apathy, being too busy, feeling no need as all politicians are crooks, feeling that the elections are rigged and their votes won’t count anyway or have never had the desire to vote their entire lives??? Why is this – especially since history has revealed numerous uphill battles for this universal right? Indeed, many of these people who do not show up at the polls are the first to complain about the state of affairs and outcomes in elections.
The term ballot was first derived from the Italian word ballotta, meaning “little ball in a box.” This ballot box was not used in a U.S. election. Rather, it was used by members of the Association of the Oldest Inhabitants of Washington, D.C., a social club where the ballot box was wooden and housed marbles as the candidates for a particular chair. Perhaps, this is where the phrase “lost your marbles” was derived?
The Constitution bestows states the authority to run elections. Voting in the United States has developed into a cacophony of manual, mechanical, and electronic balloting that has not been standardized, however, has been accepted in the diverse rural, suburban and urban areas.
The earliest elections were conducted by voice vote or with paper ballots placed into ballot boxes. These paper ballots, called party tickets, listed names from just one party. As the United States grew and the electorate expanded in the decades following the Civil War, improvements appeared in the form of the Australian or a blanket ballot which listed the names of all candidates and featured ballot boxes with new security features.
In the early 1960s, new computer-read ballot systems entered the market for voting equipment and eventually triumphed over mechanical machines. Voters used either a stylus or punch to perforate a computer punch card ballot or to mark a standardized form using a no. 2 pencil. The computer touch screen, introduced in the 1990s, used direct recording electronic (DRE) voting systems with familiar graphic layouts and captured votes digitally. Voting precincts today use a combination of all of these methods.
After decades of battling to attain the privilege to vote, two major Amendments became law giving all U.S. citizens equal rights to vote. The first was the long battle for women’s suffrage. Finally, on August 26, 1920, the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution became law, and women could vote in the fall elections, including in the Presidential election. This was passed by the House of Representatives. The House passed this landmark bill, in a 304 to 90 vote, a proposed Amendment to the Constitution. Hence, the victory for women was won and this law stated that the right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any States on Account of sex.
The second milestone Amendment occurred on August 6, 1965, when President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965 into law. The law applied a nationwide prohibition against the denial or abridgment of the right to vote. This law provided that no citizen should be discriminated against by race, color, ethnicity, etc. in order to vote.
It is now a distressing fact that despite how tirelessly our ancestral leaders and citizens fought to permit every citizen the right to vote, only a mere average of approximately 51% of eligible voters have voted in the general elections from 1948 until 2008. The statistic is more dismal for Primary elections where a good turn-out is only 27-30%? This number is pathetically low yet so many complain that their candidates do not get nominated for the general elections? In Michigan, sadly, the stats are about the same.
Clearly, there is apathy, misinformation, lack of knowledge and laziness involved regarding the low voter turn-out in Michigan and the in the U.S. as a whole. The Michigan Voter Guide serves as an excellent resource to help voters further learn about the candidates who are running for office in Michigan. Also, detailed information on non-partisan candidates; County, City, Township elections; school board/trustee races; proposals; mileages; etc., can be found at the League of Women Voters site. All-inclusive information is available by plugging in a state and then selecting a geographical area.
Unfortunately, the judicial candidates are, oftentimes, overlooked and are the most important vote that one can cast in elections as these individuals affect our lives on a personal and direct manner, more so than the other positions of power. It is extremely difficult to find information about these candidates as they are in the non-partisan category. The task is achievable; however, it will take some time and investigative skills to peruse the copious dockets, cases and rulings. The judicial candidate names can be searched in the above voter guides and then a google search can be conducted, an attempt to attend a meet the candidate forum in your area and/or a visit to the County Courthouse to research and review cases and their related court rulings can be performed to acquire desired information. This website is a good source for comprehensive Michigan Court information.
If all else fails, it is easy to login to MIVote and execute a search for a preferred candidate/issue and find additional information as well as video interviews and debates which can really divulge much about the character and how the candidate portrays him/her self on camera.
Two other sources for candidate/issue/business/election information are:
Now that you are armed with resources to assist in scrutinizing candidates, the battle is almost over – there is no excuse not to vote! Knowledge is power! Our forefathers/mothers fought to grant us this unalienable right and privilege. It is time for us as prudent citizens to not take this honor for granted.
“A citizen of America will cross the ocean to fight for democracy, but won’t cross the street to vote in a national election. “ ~ Bill Vaughan
May WE cross many streets and let Freedom ring…VOTE smart on November 2, 2010!