Turning 13 years old is an exciting time for youths because the word “teen” is added on to their age and one finally feels that he or she is officially a teenager.
When one becomes 16, a giddiness exists because a driver’s license can be obtained. The thought of not having to be driven around by parents gives a new sense of freedom. Being 21 allows the right to buy alcohol and get into most nightclubs.
But it is at the age of 18 that the most important rite of passage occurs, yet no one seems to notice. It is a time when one can exercise freedom to its most facile, yet important, extent.
Voting. It is a right that every American citizen over the age of 18 possesses. It is a privilege that many ignore and choose not to exercise. It is a chance that many dream of but will never experience. It is a prerogative that many have fought, struggled and died to obtain.
At the beginning of United States history, only white, male property owners over the age of 21 were given the right to vote. Since then, African Americans, women and people in the 18- to 21-year old range have been bestowed the right of making vital decisions for this country. Throughout the course of American history, the voting pool has been extended, yet voter turnout has decreased.
The 13th Amendment, adopted in 1865, guaranteed African Americans the right to vote. However, it was not until the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that those rights were protected. It was only after bitter and violent opposition that Congress passed the law.
Women were not given the opportunity to voice their opinions on the ballot until the suffrage movement and after the 19th Amendment passed in 1920. It was not until 1971, after the passage of the 26th Amendment, that the right to vote was extended to 18-year-olds.
Consider the fact that it was not too long ago that if you were an African American, a woman or below the age of 21, you had no vote, no choice and no opinion as far as this country was concerned.
Many have dismissed voting in their lives because they do not think it will make a difference. They continue to remain apathetic. They are the same people who aggressively complain out loud that politicians are tainted and that government is corrupt, yet do nothing to rectify the situation.
How can politicians and government improve to their liking and be corrected if individuals who oppose them do not vote? It is the same people who complain of the officials elected into office that do not advocate the programs they wish to see expand. Voting enables people to voice their thoughts and let government know how the public wants to be governed.
People claim that they do not have the time to vote on election day. Not having the time to vote is not an acceptable excuse. The decision that comes from the ballots cast is a conscious determination of how the business of a city, state or country should be conducted.
One would hope that individuals see voting as a process that can effect their daily lives. It is about making an educated and informed effort in aiding the government to know what citizens want and need. Without correct feedback, the government has only its own vision to work with. Voting sends politicians a message of what the people desire.
Next Tuesday, the California Primary will take place. On the ballot, California voters will be asked to choose which person should be the presidential candidate to represent their political affiliation. Furthermore, they will have to decide the fate of mountain lions, carjackers, how primary elections should operate and much more. By not voting, one essentially helps pass legislation that they disagree with.
The people who will vote on Tuesday understand that voting is a right that many have fought for. Every vote counts. If people can take the time to complain about the government, then they should make the time to cast a vote.