At a crossroads, change is possible.
Things are different now than they were a month ago. In a short few weeks, we have come to more understanding about who we are as a people and as a nation. And we feel less safe and united. But we have choice about where we go from here. I believe that one of our best options for choice if through voting ourselves. But when there is no election in the offing, we can still act. Our elected officials and representatives respond to constituent pressure. After all, they depend on our votes to stay in office. We do not have to wait until November to act. Letting them hear what we want them to do is one way to feel less hopeless and helpless.
This post is the first in my promised series on voting. I got the idea from watching a program in early August on C-Span, an excellent “Symposium on Voting Rights Act,” hosted by journalist Juan Williams. Dr. Dorothy Height from the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, Dr. Joseph Lowery from SCLC, and other participate in a symposium on the Voting Rights Act of August 6, 1965. The LBJ tapes take you back to that very time.
By the end of August the subject of voting was overshadowed by the horrors in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Now it is time to look ahead to what we as citizens can to change the direction of the country. Recent polls indicate that a majority of respondents agree that our current president has not done a good job for us. We can’t vote him out, of course.
But similar polling results indicate that a majority of us think the country is going the wrong way. Voting is the one method that every one of us of voting age and eligibility can use to make a difference by changing direction. I still believe that!
I started my own long history of voting activism in the early 1970’s, as a member of the League of Women Voters. As their representative, at one point during that period, I served as an election judge. It was at the request of a local Black community voting to elect area Community Action Agency (CAA) representatives. Even back then I realized, at a core level, how much importance even such a small thing has for every citizen (majority and minority) of these United States.
Now, civil rights activists are demanding that the federal government reauthorize the 1965 Voting Rights Act, saying voters’ most fundamental democratic right would be routinely denied if the law is allowed to lapse. They carried their message to rallies on Aug. 6, the 40th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act (VRA). U.S. minorities are beginning to demand renewal of voting rights protections; some key provisions are set to expire in 2007. Coalitions formed and are urging action. Even as things stand, they say, violations of the right to vote persist 40 years after the legislation was passed and more than a century after the 15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution enfranchised black men.
Constitutional voting provisions are important to keep in mind because they are the bedrock of participatory democracy. But full electoral participation is still only a goal. And it has been extremely slow in coming, particularly for minorities and women. August 26, 2005 marked the 85th Anniversary of voting rights for women. About.com also provides some interesting old photos about women’s suffrage.
As a positive participatory step, why not sign up for AOL’s newsletter, VoteNote, that tracks recent votes of your elected officials. Then you will be able to let them know what you think about their representation of your views. The site is also a very good general resource page, for help in keeping up with what your government is doing on your behalf.
At a crossroads, change is possible.