Impact of Voting: A History

All American citizens are called as members of society to participate in civic engagement. Through active civic engagement, citizens create solutions to controversial issues that affect the entire community. The push for democratic living standards and interdependence empowers the citizens to strive for positive social changes. The two aspects of civic engagement are mainly civil and electoral. Volunteering in the community, fundraising for charities and active participation in non-profit organizations are deemed as civil engagement that helps the people of the community. The other aspect, electoral engagement, gets more intention to be more important in deciding the direction of our country. This includes advocating for others to take action, campaigning for a certain candidate and voting at elections. The latter engagement has gone through a number of phases and obstacles in order to the perfect today’s system.

The history of our democratic journey dates back to Colonial times, when the voting elite was restricted to white male land owners. Each of the thirteen original colonies governed themselves to their accords, not following a standard of voting. It is seen that colonists practiced a direct representation, appointing their own governors by popular vote in the lower part of the two house legislation that was apparent during this time.

The biggest movement for electoral change comes in the dawn of the Revolutionary-era (1700s). As expenditures were needed to be met to pay off English debt in war, England began to tax her colonies high tariffs for necessities—the most famous were the Stamp Act (1765) and Tea Act (1773). This action caused raged throughout the colonies. Protests occurred within colonists declaring the famous Jonathan Mayhew quote, “No taxation without representation!” To be denied a direct voice in British Parliament indicated to the colonists that they were not important enough to have their own stands—as if they were not even human. This idea was the supreme factor that helped drive the spirit of the Revolutionary war.

The desire for independence from England dangled above the hungry colonists, in hope to get a piece of their freedom soon. Renowned writer, Thomas Paine, introduced a radical political society: the democratic republic, instituting the power to the people, who would in turn, chose their authority by popular consent. Instead of acting as individuals, the citizens must come together as a whole to improve their society; the rights of the people mattered more than the private rights of the person. Finally, on July 4, 1776, the Liberty bells rang loud and clear for all to know that America formally announced their separation from England through the Declaration of Independence. Thus, patriots fought with true spirit in the American Revolution, lasting from 1775-1783. The Treaty of Paris (1783) ended the war and recognized the sovereignty of the Thirteen Colonies. The Constitutional Convention came created the Articles of Confederation, which stated the amount of power to the government. Afterwards, the Bill of Rights declared the rights of every American citizen. The only controversy, however, was the question of who could vote because women were not included in the voting process.

The fight for equality between genders was halted while the issue of slavery divided the country in half, with the Southern states creating their own Confederacy. The North believed slavery was unethical, and that the slaves deserved the same human rights given to whites. The South stood behind the fact that the plantation owners were helping these people and the economy. The American Civil War was fought between the two regions. The outcome favored the views of the North; the Thirteenth Amendment was passed in 1865 to abolish slavery. Then, during the Reconstruction period, the Fourteenth Amendment of 1866 declared that all persons born in the United States were citizens. Following, the Fifteenth Amendment of 1869 prohibited any state from denying a citizen’s right to vote “on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” At this point, in essence, the right to vote was open to all white males and black citizens; women were not guaranteed a spoken word. Women as mothers give selflessly to their family, educating the future citizens of America, yet they were still denied voting rights. This fight is one that takes the backseat until the 1900s.

The Progressive era was a time of increased activism and optimism for a new generation of feminists. The National American Woman Suffrage Association advocated the drive to win votes for women at the state level. In order for democracy to broaden, empowering women to vote would lead them to take more care into their families during the industrial society. Finally, in 1920, the movement started by Susan B. Anthony before the Civil War came to the ultimate goal. The Nineteenth Amendment, guaranteeing women’s right to vote in all elections, was ratified.

From the beginning proposal of a republic in which the people act together, it took the country 200 years to ensure every race, gender and religion gained their human rights. The present voting process has come a long way ensuring that American citizens were granted the equality that they fought for. With every election, with every era, a new feat was overcome, and progress was made in advancing the country. It is important to continue the tradition our forefathers created. Voting and democracy is what our country is based on, and which sets it from the rest of the world. Million of immigrants settle here every year in hopes of eventually being able to speak their thoughts and issues. Preserving the importance of voting reminds the country, and the world, that with passion and determination, a dream can become a reality.