This morning, a friend of mine posted the following status update on Facebook:
“While waiting in line to vote, the father in front of me was explaining to his precocious 6-yr-old why only adults were allowed to vote and why it’s important. He said voting is our most important act as a citizen. It is a privilege and is one of the most freeing things we can do in the US. Wise father.”
Both the father in her story and my friend are completely right. Participating in our democratic process is a privilege, one that many Americans are correctly taking advantage of today.Here are some interesting statistics about the 2010 election, for your pleasure*:
- In 2010, 41.8% of the voting-age population reported having voted in the election. Interestingly, 59.8% reported having registered to vote.
- More women than men reported having voted in the 2010 election – 42.7% to 40.9%.
- 69-year-olds were the most likely of any other age to vote in the 2010 election; a full 63.1% of them reported having cast a ballot on Election Day.
- More New Englanders reported having voted in 2010 (48.2%) than any other geographic region in the country.
- 58.4% of Maine’s citizens reported having voted in the 2010 election, the highest turnout of any other state that year. Only 31.4% of Texans reported making it to the polls, representing the lowest turnout rate of any state that year.
During the 2008 election – with the presidency contested between Barack Obama and John McCain – voter trends reflected a more responsive citizenry.
- 58.2% of Americans reported voting in the 2008 election.
- Same news on the gender front, though: 55.7% of males reported having voted, while 60.4% of women participated in Election Day.
- The age group that was most likely to vote during the 2008 election? 77-year-olds (at 72.8%). If a 77-year-old can get to their polling place, you can too. No excuses.
- During this election cycle, more citizens from the West North Central region (65.9%) reported having voted than any other geographical region. Exactly which states comprise the West North Central region, you ask? I have no idea.
- More Minnesotans (70.8%) reported turning out on Election Day in 2008 than any other state. Take that Maine. Meanwhile, in Hawaii, only 46.8% of the population reported having voted, presumably because they were enjoying lounging around in the warm tropical breezes that Minnesotans could only bitterly dream of in November.
We tend to think of our right to vote as a hallmark of the American experience, but representative democracy hasn’t always been egalitarian in our country’s voting history. In 1776, John Adams – a signer of the Declaration of Independence and 2nd President of the United States – held the following beliefs about popular enfranchisement:
“…It is dangerous to open so fruitful a source of controversy and altercation as would be opened by attempting to alter the qualifications of voters; there will be no end to it. New claims will arise; women will demand the vote; lads from 12 to 21 will think their right not enough attended to; and every man who has not a farthing, will demand an equal voice with any other, in all acts of state. It tends to confound and destroy all distinctions, and prostrate all ranks to one common level.”
Strong words, Adams.
Despite our 2nd President’s warning, in the century following the Civil War, a variety of Amendments were passed which allowed for the broader enfranchisement of a significant portion of American society.
- In 1870, the 15th Amendment guaranteed to black men 21 years or older the right to vote.
- In 1920, the 19th Amendment granted women’s suffrage.
- The 23rd Amendment allowed for citizens living in the District of Columbia to vote in presidential elections as of 1961.
- The 24th Amendment, ratified in 1964, prohibited the use of poll taxes and allowed all voting-age citizens the right to a free vote.
- In 1971, the 26th Amendment expanded the right to vote to citizens aged 18 or older.
It has taken us a long, long time to establish the right to vote as it is currently appreciated in America. As a citizen of this country, it is your duty, your freedom and your responsibility to participate in the electoral process. The polls are still open – please make sure that you cast your vote today!
If you’re still uncertain where your polling place is located, visit this link for important Election Day information: http://www.vote411.org/.
*Voting trend data for the 2010 and 2008 elections can be found at the United States Census Bureau’s Voting and Registration website.