West Virginia Young Democrat Sarah Summers shares her thoughts on registering to vote for the first time. Her enthusiasm, dedication, commitment, and pride provide lessons for all of us, whether we are 18 or 80. Thank you, Sarah.
This past Wednesday I registered to vote ... as a Democrat of course. What a feeling it is to finally have a say in issues that affect my family, my friends, and myself.
The idea of not registering to vote never entered my mind. I was raised in a proud, hardworking Democratic family. I have been around True Blue women who have always taken me to campaigns and events. It has been engraved in me that if I don't have my say at the polls, other people will make decisions regarding everything in my life.
I have, however, come to the realization that not everyone my age is as excited as I am about getting out to vote. For many of my friends, turning 18 is nothing sensational except that it offers a bit more freedom. I am trying to get them to see 18 in a different light. 18 is the “voting age.” It is the age we can make our voices heard at the polls. It is an age free of control, but not the kind they are thinking. 18 could possibly be the most monumental age in one’s life.
As if the idea of making our voices heard, making our own decisions, and not being treated like children anymore isn’t liberating enough, there are plenty of other reasons to become a voting citizen. Simply stated, we are extremely fortunate to have this right. There is no justification for not casting a ballot; everyone can and everyone should.
In 1920, after decades of fighting and dying for the right, the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified. This Amendment declared that women deserve the same voting rights as men. Fifty years earlier, in 1870, the 15th Amendment granted African-Americans the right to make their voices heard. In 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed The Voting Rights Act into law, guaranteeing there can be no discrimination toward African-Americans casting a ballot. Today, any registered voter is accepted and able to vote.
So what's your excuse?
My fellow 18-year-olds, if you don’t vote then someone else will make decisions for you. I cannot stress this point strongly enough. Decisions regarding your healthcare, education, and income; your future in general; any rights you have come to know and love, are either in your hands, or in someone else's. I could go on and on. Whether you like it or not, you cannot complain if you don’t get out and vote.
The 2016 presidential election is our prime opportunity. I urge you to watch the news, follow politicians, and become informed. Pay attention not only to the candidates you agree with, but to the ones you disagree with as well.
Call a friend and schedule a ride to your local precinct on Election Day. Make it a special occasion, and remind yourself how blessed you are to have this right.
Do whatever it takes.
In the words of Franklin Delano Roosevelt:
“Nobody will ever deprive the American people of the right to vote except the American people themselves and the only way they could do this is by not voting.”
See you at the polls!