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Exercising The Basic Right To Vote

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By Janice S. Ellis, PhD, Kansas City, MO —

Exercising the basic right to vote is still a major issue in supposedly the greatest democracy on earth, the United States of America. Our history of extending this basic right to all Americans have, at best, been a spotty one. Perhaps, one of the main reasons is because originally the United States Constitution did not define who was eligible to vote, leaving that decision to each state to determine.

It seems that exercising the basic right to vote in this great democracy has been problematic for one group or the other ever since its founding. Voting, participating, and having our say in how we are governed, the essence of who we are as a country has been, and continues to be, seriously undermined.

One unintended, and some would argue intended, consequence has been getting government that was not of the people, for the people and by the people as we like to think and brag about. Well, maybe of, by and for a few.

At first, exercising the basic right to vote was extended only to white men who were property owners. Men and women who were not property owners could not vote in most states. Early in our history women could vote in a few northern states and jurisdictions if they owned property. Freed slaves and other non-whites could vote in a few jurisdictions if they met the property requirements.

Exercising The Basic Right To Vote

But even the property requirement was eliminated for white men and they were eligible to vote in all states prior to the Civil War, and of course, has continued to be so. But consistently denied to others.

Exercising the basic right to vote

Exercising the basic right to vote. Photo Credit:

Subsequent amendments to the Constitution prohibit any state from denying an American citizen the right to vote because of “race, color, or previous condition of servitude,” the 15th Amendment that passed in 1870; or on “account of sex,” the 19th Amendment passed in 1920.

We all know what those amendments have meant and haven’t. Many states have and continue to institute policies to make it hard for certain citizens to vote, most notably, blacks, Native Americans, and other “undesirable” minorities. The measures being adopted in recent years, and even today, also target the elderly with unreasonable identification requirements.

First, many states required payment of poll taxes or reading standards, which many minorities could not meet. While that has been repealed, having various forms of identification when you get to the polls has taken its place.

Exercising the basic right to vote

Exercising the basic right to vote made harder in some states. Photo Credit:

Several states (Georgia, Texas, Kansas, Wisconsin, Indiana, Virginia, Tennessee, and Mississippi) have strict photo ID requirements to vote; other states require simply a Photo ID (Alabama, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Louisiana, Michigan, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and South Dakota). The remaining thirty plus states have non-photo requirements that must be met.

Many of the states requiring photo IDs have not been shy about saying that the new requirements are there to limit those who can vote and to effect the level of turnout in the 2016 Congressional and Presidential elections.

It is 2016, and many citizens will find it difficult, if not impossible to vote in these very important elections because they cannot get the required ID. And those most affected will be minorities and the elderly.

And we wonder why the country and the political process are suspect and so divided. We are still fighting over exercising the basic right to vote. Is this an America that all Americans can believe in?

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Janice Ellis
Janice Ellis
Janice S. Ellis, PhD, is an award-winning author. Her book, From Liberty to Magnolia: In Search of the American Dream is available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and other major book sellers. She has written a column for newspapers, radio, and now online, where she analyzes educational, political, social and economic issues across race, ethnicity, age and socio-economic status. You can see her writings on this website.


  1. Kei says:

    I can really notice racism in US. Though this can affect politics and the whole country, they are still one of the richest countries.

  2. Angelo says:

    In my country, a lot of people are still not yet a registered voter. It’s sad to say that they don’t care.

  3. Shayan Raj says:

    Voting in itself is the absolute essence of democracy. This shows that in a democratic nation, people hold the true power. Very powerful article.Thanks for sharing.

  4. Maury Cheskes says:

    In this day and age, it shouldn’t be difficult for voters to participate. On top of rigid voting regulations, there’s always the question of tampering in U.S. elections. That’s why advocacy and social reform are so important.

  5. Renzo Miguel says:

    Exercising our right to vote is very important especially when we live in a democratic nation. It’s crucial to the future of our country. How can we expect progress if we won’t involve ourselves in the process?

  6. Romelia says:

    I think that the government should find ways to make registration a little bit easier and a little less hassle. One of the reasons that many people in my country opt not to vote because of the hassles of registration and the confusion during the process.

  7. Freddie Trillo says:

    I don’t see any problem with being strict with proof of identification as part of a requirement in voting. For sure, being strict and rigid in ensuring that there are proofs of identification is only to protect the identity of the voters and somehow eliminate instances of electoral fraud. It’s not curtailing the right to vote, but somehow, ensuring that there would be no problem when it comes to the identity of voters.

  8. peace says:

    In a dawn of a new era like this and in a country that democracy is highly held,voting right shouldn’t be denied to any right voting age individual.If there are lapses already,this should be swiftly corrected.

  9. Kuttan says:

    yes eligibility conditions for voting seems to be complex but voting is the basic and fundamental right of a citizen he should have the right to cast the vote to the party or a person he feels deems to be fit for ruling.

  10. Feddy says:

    This is democracy and as such, there shouldn’t be any hard rules for the electorates to vote.I think the authorities responsible should rise up and make the process as smooth as possible.

  11. Mickey says:

    I think the main reason is that U.S.A is a very racist country. Until nowracism is a real problem in the country.

  12. Vikram Parmar says:

    Long time ago the right to vote was limited to white men. The men and women who were not property owners could not do the voting in many states.

  13. Scott Summers says:

    I can vote but I have not practice it for so long. For one Politics nowadays are more on political as suppose to service. I do not like that.

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