While more countries than ever around the world are fighting for the right to vote, the United States has one of the lowest voter turnouts of any comparable wealthy countries.
According to Pew Center Research, 51 million people are eligible to vote but are not registered.
Of those polled by CNN, 26% said they were too busy to get themselves on the voter rolls. Twelve percent said their vote wouldn’t count anyway, and 10% said they just didn’t want to get registered.
Even more sobering are estimates that only 75 percent of registered voters will actually cast a ballot this fall.
In a USA TODAY/Suffolk University Poll of people in the United States who are eligible to vote, eight in 10 say the government plays an important role in their lives. Yet these same people say that the odds are 50-50 that they will even vote.
The main reasons cited are that they are too busy, they just aren’t excited about either candidate, they think their vote doesn’t really matter, or my favorite – nothing ever gets done anyway.
However a look back at history not very long ago shows just how many have fought and sacrificed to establish the right for all citizens in our country to vote. And it makes this lack of concern distressing, to say the least.
When the US was founded, only white men with property could vote. By 1869, the 15th Amendment guaranteed the right to vote to black men (but it wasn’t until 1965, after much suffering and violence, that literacy tests, as well as many other tactics to dissuade voters of certain races or colors, including violence, were banned).
And it wasn’t until 1920 – less than 100 years ago — when all women in the U.S. could vote, after 50 years of suffragists being beaten, jailed and treated like traitors for wanting the right to vote.
So when I hear that the top reasons given by unregistered voters and by registered voters not planning to vote is that they are too busy or they don’t think it matters, it gets me a little hot under the collar.
Today, on national register to vote day – as voter registration deadlines loom – I am grateful for my right to vote and the fact that I realize it does matter.
(For information on voter registration and where candidates stand on various issues, see votesmart.org. For your state’s voter registration deadline visit: http://www.usa.gov/Citizen/Topics/Voting.shtml.)