Post by Brian Fauls, Government Affairs Manager
The Struggle to Be a Voter
On Election Day in 1920, millions of American women exercised their right to vote for the first time. It took activists and reformers nearly 100 years to win that right. At one point, suffrage leader Lucy Burns was imprisoned at the Occoquan Workhouse, in nearby Prince William County, for having the audacity to picket the White House in support of a federal amendment granting women the right to vote.
In 1870, the 15th Amendment to the Constitution, guaranteeing black men the right to vote, was ratified. It would take nearly another 100 years before the promise of that Amendment was fulfilled by passage of the Voting Rights Act, a cornerstone of the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s.
Of the 27 Amendments to the Constitution, 6 of them – nearly ¼ of all amendments – deal with voting. In addition, to the 15th and 19th Amendments, the 24th Amendment prohibits denying any citizen their suffrage (voting) rights for not paying a poll tax or any other taxes; and the 26th Amendment extends the right to vote to citizens 18 and older. The other two amendments deal with direct election of Senators (something we take for granted today) and allowing the District of Columbia to vote for their own Electors for president.
A great deal of effort, a great deal of blood, sweat and tears, has been expended in the short history of our country over the question of voting. And rightly so.
Despite what some people might think of our government today, we are not ruled by tyranny, we still have a government “of the people, by and people and for the people,” but only so long as Americans continue to participate in that government. Your vote is your voice. Voting is your opportunity to be heard, to hold elected officials accountable for their decisions, and to have a say in important issues that affect your community.
William E. Simon, 63rd U.S. Secretary of Treasury, once said, “Bad politicians are sent to Washington by good people who don’t vote.” He was right. His axiom also applies equally well to sending politicians to Richmond or Leesburg. Bad politicians make bad laws and bad laws create bad communities.
Your vote matters. Even in a landslide election your vote matters because at the end of the day voting for the voter is not about winning but about expressing your heart, your conscience, your commitment to your neighbors and your community; voting is about your principles. And, as John Quincy Adams said, if you “Always vote on principle, though you may vote alone, and you may cherish the sweetest reflection that your vote is never lost.”
November 3rd is Election Day. Educate yourself on who the candidates are, what they stand for, and what they have done if they’ve been in office before. Decide who best represents your principles, your conscience and your commitment to your community and VOTE for them. VOTE, VOTE, VOTE, VOTE.