Voting for Americans is a civic duty. A privilege that has been hard fought to win and keep. To vote you must be a United States citizen and eighteen years of age. You cannot be a felon currently serving your sentence or mentally incompetent and vote. Voting is free and voluntary. It has also been private since 1890, no one knows how you vote unless you tell them. Polling places are divided into voting districts, which are determined by where you live. In most states you can register to vote by mail. If you miss a registering deadline you might not be able to vote in that election. Or if you miss a number of elections you may have to re-register. General elections (for Federal offices) are held every two years on even numbered years. Recently voting has become more computerized, although "absentee" or "mail-in" ballots are still available.
In the early days of America only 120,000 out of more than four million people were able to vote. They were free white men that owned property and met certain religious requirements. By 1860, almost every state allowed all white men twenty-one and older to vote. After the Civil War, the Fifteenth Amendment to the Constitution was created, which gave all men the right to vote. However, in practice it was the 1960's for many blacks in southern states. In 1920, after a long battle for the right to vote, women were able to do so. And in 1971, eighteen year-olds were given the right to vote.
Ever think your one vote won't make a difference? Here are some times in history when it did.
- In 1649 one vote decided that King Charles would be executed.
- In 1839 one vote elected Marcus Morton Governor of Massachusetts.
- In 1845 one vote allowed Texas to join the Union.
- In 1868 one vote kept President Andrew Johnson from being impeached.
- In 1923 one vote gave Adolf Hitler control of the Nazi Party.
- In 1942 one vote saved Selective Service just weeks before Pearl Harbor.
So please, do your civic duty and exercise your right to register and vote. You to can make a difference!