Voting is the most patriotic act Americans can do. No other act of service differentiates U.S. citizens than when we vote because a vote reinforces our nation’s unique leadership as a democracy while fortifying our self-governance. Yet, we still find ourselves restricting voting access, though it’s contrary to every American’s right and duty.
It’s an outmoded, but familiar debate. When 19th Amendment passed, naysayers believed women needed more education. Shortly before, some white Americans expressed a similar sentiment about freeing enslaved Black people and allowing Black men the right to vote, yet once guaranteed the right to vote and full citizenship, those constituents proved themselves educated and committed.
The founders of the League of Women Voters committed our organization to educating citizens, expanding and protecting the right to vote. The National League of Women Voters’ Impact on Issues 2022-24 outlines over a century of efforts to fulfill this mission.
The Impact on Issues 2022-24 serves as the guiding platform for the League’s work: At present, the LWV supports the Voting Rights Act of 1965 “to protect the right to vote for every citizen.” We’ve supported and helped implement the National Voter Registration Act to facilitate voter registration. We’ve led campaigns to help break down barriers for non-voters who “are less likely to grasp the impact of elections on issues that matter to them” and “are more likely to believe they lack information on which to base their voting decisions” as well as to perceiving voting is difficult and cumbersome.” We provide online voter information through Vote411.org where voters can learn about their candidates, if they’re registered and where to vote.
We’ve resisted added procedures that prevent the elderly, non-drivers and low-income citizens without a state-issued IDs. We’ve opposed a national database that would list all registered voters for all 50 states since the ERIC system, a state-sharing data option, has served well in preventing double-voting and voter fraud. We’ve supported the right of citizens of the District of Columbia to receive full voting representation and self-governance. They work to ensure that ex-convicts, citizens who’ve paid their dues are not disenfranchised from voting.
In brief: “These reforms include preventing barriers to the ballot box, ending felony disenfranchisement, expanding voter registration, increasing voter participation and access, strengthening election security, and creating structural reform (addressing gerrymandering, DC statehood, and money in politics.)
The League’s work makes a difference for the people we’ve written about previously - millions of senior citizens, disabled, minorities, 700,000 people in Washington D.C., more in U.S. territories, those who’ve served their time and youth.
Have these stances moved or become more politicized in the past fifty years? Compare to the 1972 GOP and Democratic Party Platforms, and we see that the 1972 GOP sought to expand voter access, reducing the voting age, enfranchising the youth vote, supporting the D.C. vote as well as voting rights for Puerto Rico and Guam, with considerations for other U.S. territories. It also supported the Voting Rights Act of 1965. In supporting these expansions for civil rights and the youth, it’s reasonable to infer they sought voting access.
The GOP stated, “We stand for lowering the legal age of majority in all jurisdictions to 18; and we will seek to broaden the involvement of young people in every phase of the political process — as voters, party workers and leaders, candidates and elected officials, and participants in government at municipal, State and Federal levels. We stand for lowering the legal age of majority in all jurisdictions to 18; and we will seek to broaden the involvement of young people in every phase of the political process — as voters, party workers and leaders, candidates and elected officials, and participants in government at municipal, State and Federal levels.
We support voting representation for the District of Columbia in the United States Congress and will work for a system of self-government for the city which takes fair account of the needs and interests of both the Federal Government and the citizens of the District of Columbia.
We vigorously support such action as is necessary to permit American citizens resident in Guam, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands to vote for President and Vice President in national elections. We support full voting rights in committees for the Delegates to Congress from Guam and the Virgin Islands.”
The GOP went on with “In 1970 President Nixon approved strong new amendments to the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and we pledge continued vigilance to ensure that the rights affirmed by this act are upheld.”
In comparison, the 1972 Democratic platform was more expansive. The Dems sought to increase active participation in self-governance through a robust approach to the entire process. They too supported the enforcement — but not expansion of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 — the enfranchisement of youth by having them vote at their school, and of ex-convicts, and D.C. voting rights. They didn’t address other U.S. territories but did call for universal voter registration by postcard and abolishment of the Electoral College for the direct vote and “liberalized absentee voting.”
As this section of the platform reads, “The Presidential primary system today is an unacceptable patchwork. The Democratic Party supports federal laws that will embody the following principles: Protect the opportunity for less-known candidates to build support; Establish uniform ground rules; Reduce the cost of primary campaigns; Promote maximum voter turnout; Ensure that issues are clarified; Foster the selection of nominees with broad popular support to assure the continued viability of the two-party system.
Ensure every citizen the ability to take part in the Presidential nomination process; and Equalize the ability of people from all income levels to participate in the political decision-making processes of the Democratic Party, by providing financial assistance through party funds for delegates, alternates and standing committee members to state and national conventions. We also call for full and uniform enforcement of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. But further steps are needed to end all barriers to participation in the political process: Universal voter registration by postcard; Bilingual means of registration and voting; Bilingual voter education programs; Liberalized absentee voting; Minimum residency requirements of 30 days for all elections, including primaries;”
Furthermore the Democractic Party called for “a Constitutional change to abolish the Electoral College and to give every voter a direct and equal voice in Presidential elections. The amendment should provide for a run-off election, if no candidate received more than 40 percent of the popular vote;” and “Restoration of civil rights to ex-convicts after completion of their sentences, including the right to vote, to hold public office, to obtain drivers’ licenses and to public and private employment. Restoration, after release, of rights to obtain drivers licenses and to public and private employment, and, after completion of sentence and conditions of parole, restoration of civil rights to vote and hold public office;”
Voting is not only our most somber responsibility as a citizen, the one that ensures the United States of America remains. It’s noble to protect the integrity of our system but it’s also imperative that all citizens engage in voting, which means we must facilitate education and access.
The League of Women Voters, a non-partisan, multi-issue organization encourages informed and active participation in government, works to increase public understanding of major policy issues and influences public policy through education and advocacy. All men and women are invited to join the LWV where hands-on work to safeguard democracy leads to civic improvement. For information, visit the website www.lwvmontcoin.org or the League of Women Voters of Montgomery County, IN Facebook page.