Monday, November 05, 2007

Rock the Vote

Four score and 7 years ago women in the United States received the right to vote with the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution. Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and thousands of other women endured over 100 years of pain and protests to achieve the ultimate gift in a democracy; the right to choose the country’s leaders. Almost a century later it is painful to witness the number of people, especially women, who choose not to exercise their right as citizens to direct the path of our nation’s policies and procedures. People take for granted their ability to vote, often citing a laundry list of reasons for consciously conceding their voice in our political system; too busy, forgot to register, do not know who to vote for, do not understand the issues, there is no one worthwhile to vote for, do not care. While some of the excuses offer a degree of validity, it is difficult for me to understand how women could not vote knowing the reasons their right was denied for so long.

Anti-suffrage campaigns focused on their viewpoint of women being unsuited to vote for a wide variety of reasons including their belief that:
  • Women’s intelligence is inferior to men’s and voting required a greater level of intelligence then women possessed.
  • Fathers, husbands, sons and brothers would vote with women’s best interests in mind leaving women free to their duties as wives and mothers.
  • The primary object of government is to protect persons and property which should be assumed by men as the natural protectors in nature.
  • The election process would threaten the peace and harmony in the home; even the Roman Catholic Church opposed suffrage because its leaders believed that suffrage would emancipate women and cause the breakup of the family (which is one of the many reasons I am not catholic.)
  • For physical, moral and social reasons women would be unable to make a sound decision in the event the nation needed to consider force.
  • As voters women would need to serve on juries and would be unable to deal with the horrors spoken of in criminal trials.
  • The strife, turmoil and contention in political activities are against the natural loving nature of women.
  • The only way to maintain social and political order is to enforce gender-based roles and regulations.

If the above excuses used in denying women the right to vote don’t enrage you enough to go to the polls today then chew on this; the National Woman's Party first proposed the Equal Rights Amendment to eliminate discrimination on the basis of gender in 1923. It has never been ratified with lawmakers using many of the same excuses to stop its passage that were used to deny voting rights.

As for the problems people claim as their reason to skip Election Day let me present the solutions:
  • If you are too busy to go to the ballots then get an absentee ballot.
  • If you forgot to register then go and register for next year (and in Minnesota there is no excuse not to register- show up at the polls with a license and a utility bill and you can vote on the spot).
  • If you do not understand your registration and election rules you can find that information here.
  • If do not know who to vote for then visit or do not understand the issues then visit your local League of Women Voters.
  • If there is no one worthwhile to vote for then do a write in vote; good leaders will only rise if we demand good candidates.
  • If you do not care then don’t complain about the war, or your taxes, or the traffic, or anything else that would be addressed by competent leaders.

Only when we fully embrace our rights as citizens in a democracy and have 100% voter turnout will we start to see our politicians consider and align with the needs and rights of every person. All too often our policies reflect a small minority; those who show up at the polls. For all those who choose not to vote, let it be known that your actions, or lack thereof, are contributing to the ills of our government. Politicians naturally want to be re-elected and to them we are either a person who votes for them, a person who can vote for them or a person who does not vote; and the latter will never be taken seriously enough to have their voice heard.


    Nursedude said...

    All I know is that any politician who ignores 51-52% of the population does so at their own peril. I think for such a block to not realize the power that they hold come the first Tuesday in November is befuddling.
    The fact that we are even having this discussion in 2007 has me scratching my head. Somewhere, the ghosts of Susan B. Anthony and Betty Friedan must be churning in their graves, and women who fought for civil rights on and off the athletic field like Billie Jean King, Gloria Steinem and Martina Navritilova have to be wondering how women's memories can be so short in terms of their most basic right of being a citizen as to not even care to be involved.

    Richard Jaffe said...

    I don't think the phenomenon is unique to women voters. I think its a symptom of (too) many americans who have lost faith in the power of their vote. With so much corruption in our midst, I can't blame them as much as I would like to.

    Explosive Bombchelle said...

    These days this message could go to everyone; Women are actually outvoting men in elections, but women forget we had to fight for the right and take it for granted... of course, there are lots of rights women have obtained that they take for granted.

    And an interesting note; Women are starting to outpace men in voting in the same ratios that women outnumber men attending college.

    Nursedude said...

    'Chelle and Richard, you both bring up good points. There ARE a lot of men not voting either. I just got back from a trip to France where I had a chance to see the largest American Cemetary outside the U.S near Verdun, France. When you go to a place like that, or Arlington Cemetary, it is saddening to think that people don't appreciate the immense sacrifices others have made. To your point Michelle, and it's a subject I have commented on back in June in my blog, my feeling is that the Public Education system is letting boys down in a big way. The Awards night that I went to at this one high school had, I would guess, 75% young women compared to young men getting awards on senior honors night. The African Amercans getting awards that night were all "sisters", not a single african american male in the bunch at a school that has a large African American population. I know this posting goes beyond your original topic, but I had to throw in my two cents.