Voting is not only a right, it is a responsibility. The right to vote is the very foundation of democracy. Our history is rife with the struggles for each segment of society to be included in that right. The United States Constitution does not specifically provide citizens with the right to vote. Each state had its own standards. In the infancy of our country only men with property were permitted to vote.
At the time of the Civil War, frontiersmen and white immigrants had won the right to vote-but there were difficult barriers such as literacy tests, poll taxes, and religious tests. Women, people of color, and Native Americans still could not vote.
Slaves, who had been regarded as 3/5 of a person with no rights, were emancipated in 1866. At that point in time, they were then regarded as a whole person. In 1869 black men were included in the voting population.
Even though black men were guaranteed the right to vote, they were restricted from doing so by the illegal practices of administering poll taxes, literacy tests, hiding polling places and, not only threats of physical violence, but also violence to the point of death.
Women, Native Americans, and Latinos all fought equally through the decades until the Federal Voting Rights Act of 1965 was passed. At this time in history, our nation still has unfair practices at the polls.
Do we appreciate our right to vote? Do we take it for granted? Or are we apathetic about it? Voting is not only a right and a privilege, but it also is a grave responsibility. It also was won for us by many who did so by their blood, sweat, and tears. It is our responsibility to vote, but not just to vote blindly. It is our responsibility to make ourselves aware of the key issues that are on the table.
We Christians need to be in prayer for wisdom to vote for those candidates who will uphold the principles on which our great nation was founded. Let us pray that God will direct not only the election on November 4, but also the entire leadership of our country. Let us exercise our right, privilege and responsibility to vote.
By Barbara Sweeney