The Importance of Voting

The+Importance+of+Voting

Alicia Naranjo-Champion

The fourth Tuesday of September is recognized as National Voter Registration Day. 

A few seniors may be voting for the first time this year, but for the majority of Arroyo students, the 2024 election will be their first. 

In a time when politics seem to be at the center of everything, it is difficult to avoid such conversations. And as high schoolers, we are quickly nearing the age when we will have to decide whether to vote or not. 

Arroyo High School club S.A.V.E or, Student Advocates for Voter Empowerment, encourages and prepares students to become civically engaged members of society. 

Club president Linh Tran explained, “Voting is one of the many ways you can express your thoughts about current issues that involve politics. In order to contribute to our community, we must teach others just how important voting and politics [are] in general.”

But voting is about more than working towards a better future, it’s also about honoring the people who fought valiantly to make it accessible for all Americans. 

Several milestones mark the USA’s journey to more accessible voting for every citizen. When the country was founded, only land-owning white men could vote. Then in 1869 after years of hard work and perseverance, the 15th Amendment was passed, which stated that the “right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.”

Although this Amendment made it illegal to prohibit people of color from voting, many states made it very difficult for them to actually cast their ballots. According to National Geographic, “many would-be voters faced artificial hurdles like poll taxes, literacy tests, and other measures meant to discourage them from exercising their voting right.” It wasn’t until the 1960’s that many of these obstacles were legally removed. The 24th Amendment ratified in 1964 removed the poll tax, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 ended the Jim Crow laws.

Only about 100 years ago and after the tireless advocating from the suffrage movement, women were given the right to vote. The 19th Amendment states “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.”

Another group of people who gained the right to vote not too long ago are 18, 19, and 20-year-olds. Up until the 1970s, American citizens were not allowed to vote until they turned 21. But after arguing that anyone who is old enough to serve in the military should be able to have a say in choosing their country’s leaders, the voting age was brought down to 18.

And yet, after all these years of fighting to make voting accessible to all Americans, young people have some of the lowest voter turnouts. According to a Forbes article, “In US presidential elections, about 70 percent of voters 60 and up have turned out—which is nearly three times the rate of Americans between 18 and 29.”

The Forbes article suggests that low voter turnout among young people may be due to confusion about the location of poll places, and politics in general and therefore a lack of confidence when trying to vote the first time. It argues that some of the best ways to combat these obstacles are through education and preregistration.

Tran S.A.V.E club president explained that “Education plays a big part in becoming politically active.” She recommends that students who would like to become more involved in politics should begin by talking with others or by joining groups like S.A.V.E that discuss current events and explain “ how [members] can pre-register as well as how the election process works.” Students can also learn more by reading news articles, reading books, listening to podcasts, or by watching videos.

You must be eighteen years old to vote but you can pre-register when you are sixteen or seventeen. Pre Registration ensures that you will automatically be registered to vote on your eighteenth birthday. Forbes suggests that this substantially increases the number of younger voters. 

 

Information about S.A.V.E:

How to Register (18-year-olds) or  Preregister to Vote (16 and 17-year-olds):

Sources/Further reading: