I haven’t missed voting in an election in over forty-five years. Voting isn’t just a right; it’s a responsibility. One that my ancestors fought and died for. I voted when well off, when broke, sick and healthy, tired and rested. Before the pandemic, I almost always voted in person. I liked standing in line (short lines anyway), inserting the ballot, and getting the sticker saying I voted and wearing it all day at work.
Although I’m Black, I have never had a problem being able to vote. Voter suppression in modern times isn’t about stopping all minorities from voting. It’s about trimming voters from the herd, making it harder or impossible for some minorities, and convincing others that voting is futile and meaningless. I have been fortunate enough to have lived in precincts where voting hasn’t been discouraged. They didn’t move the polling places to inconvenient locations, the lines weren’t long, I had jobs where I could vote any time of day without penalty. But I’m reminded I live less than ten miles from Ocoee, Florida, which is in Orange County along with Orlando, where I live. Voting was once a life and death proposition there for Black people. It has been that way during much of America’s history. Let’s revisit some of that history lest we forget what it took to get where we are and why we’re still fighting for the right to vote.
A Brief History
America’s first presidential election was held on January 7, 1789. The Electoral College had been put in place via the Constitution as a safeguard against the people making decisions the politicians disagreed with. The key issue was the enslavement of Black people, which the South wanted to continue indefinitely, and many in the North benefited. The Electoral College gave the less populated southern states more voting strength, especially when combined with the Constitution’s three-fifths clause. Article 1, Section 2, Clause 3 gave white Southerners additional voting strength by allowing states to include three-fifths of their enslaved population, thus increasing their representation in Congress and insuring enslavement could not be voted out.
When Americans give credit to the Founders as being all-wise and prescient, remember, the only ones allowed to vote were white men who owned land. This is who the system was set up to reward, and while much has changed, much has stayed the same.