Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Old Enough to Fight, Old Enough to Vote

I'm not sure of this cartoon's original source, but I really like the sentiment.

Today I heard George McGovern died. Hearing his name reminded me that my parents voted for him in the 1972 presidential election. Apparently, they were on the wrong side of the landslide. That's not the important thing, though. What's worth remembering is that my parents were among the first group of 18-year-olds who, by Constitutional Amendment, had the right to vote during a presidential election. The 26th Amendment to the US Constitution, ratified in 1971, lowered the voting age to 18 in all states for all elections - local, state and federal.

If you don't know much about the 26th Amendment, I recommend you study up. Like the 14th, 15th and 19th Amendments, the 26th Amendment expanded voting rights and, thus, civil rights. While murmurs of protest over the minimum voting age had been heard since World War II, it wasn't until the Vietnam War, when people too young to vote faced being drafted into military service to fight an unpopular war, that things really heated up. More and more people publicly condemned a policy that required young people to risk their lives, yet have no say in who made the rules. The "youth of America"* and their supporters held protests. Many politicians voiced support of lowering the voting age to 18. Once written and passed by the Senate and the House of Representatives, the amendment was quickly ratified.

Here is the sad thing, though. Approximately half the 18- to 24-year-olds** in the country voted during the last presidential election - and that was an election young people were really excited about. I know in a time when the Citizens United ruling seems to give those with more money a bigger, louder voice, it can be hard to believe voting and speaking out make a difference. I, however, believe that when many little voices combine, they can grow into a roar.

History is something we live. It's not separate from our own lives, and it isn't something that happened in the past. We have the power to influence our government and its policies. We just have to use all the means provided, and all the means we can create, to be heard.

When was the last time you exercised your right to vote? I hope the next time will be November 6, no matter who will be getting your vote.

Alison :)

* So Richard Nixon named them.
** Um, I'm not in that demographic now, nor was I during the last election. But the rest of us didn't do too well, either. Despite that, I've always felt like it was important to vote and be politically active. I do what I can to make myself heard. In my family, politics are definitely a sport, a hobby, a favorite subject. :)

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