Though not specifically outlined in the United States Constitution, the right to vote was originally defined by the states and was typically a privilege only afforded to white, property-owning, Protestant men. Over time, several constitutional amendments, including the 15th, 19th, 24th and 26th Amendments, expanded the pool of eligible voters in America. Amazingly, it has been less than 100 years since women were first allowed to vote in this country, and it’s been just over 50 years since the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson, prohibiting racial discrimination in federal, state and local voting practices.
Of course, there is always room for improvement. But, for anyone who believes their individual vote doesn’t count, we don’t have to look too far back in history to be reminded of the 2000 election in which the President of the United States arguably won the election by a difference of merely 537 votes. Yet, astonishingly, in 2012, the last presidential election year, only 57.5% of eligible voters actually exercised their right to vote.
There are many legal and other important issues at stake in this year’s election that will affect each of us and our families for many years to come, including, but not limited to, the appointment of our next United States Supreme Court Justice. Still, many citizens continue to proclaim they will not partake in this year’s opportunity to exercise their right (and privilege) to vote simply because they do not like either major political party’s nominee. To those people—and all other fellow, eligible voters—I implore you, as President Barack Obama encouraged during his address to the Democratic National Convention here in Philadelphia and to viewers across our Great Nation last night: “Don’t Boo. Vote!”