One of the many elements that came out of the 1963 “March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom” was a loud call for the United States to honor its commitment to voting. People here often don’t think much about it, but voting is a critical factor in any democracy. If you look at what’s happening in Syria right now, I’m certain a number of that country’s citizens wish they had the luxury of just voting, or impeaching, Bashar al-Assad right out of office.
A positive effect of the March on Washington was the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which guaranteed that the U.S. would uphold that right for every proper citizen to cast one vote for the candidate of their choice. It struck down poll taxes and literacy tests; measures often used, particularly in the Southeast, against non-Whites and poor people. Why don’t people take this seriously?
I’m especially concerned after a report showing my beloved home state of Texas ranks 51st, after the District of Columbia, in voter turnout. On average, declares the Texas Civic Health Index, only about a third of eligible voters in the nation’s second-most populous state make a concerted effort to vote. I think that explains why Texas looks to be a blood-red bastion of far-right lunatics. It’s why Rick Perry has been able to hold onto the governorship like the Pope and why Ted Cruz easily won a Senate seat last year, despite his extremist views.
The state’s Democratic Party hopes to turn its political establishment a striking royal blue. I personally don’t want to see Texas metamorphose into another California or Illinois where extreme taxation and heavy regulations drive away businesses. But, I definitely don’t want it to remain mired in crimson red. A nice fuchsia would be more palatable, but I’m not a color maven.
The study noted – not surprisingly – that people with higher levels of education are more likely to vote. Thus, it recommended improving civic literacy through education, starting at the grade school level. But, recent cuts by the Texas legislature in education funding may make that challenging. Conservative state officials moved Heaven and Earth to ban abortion, but don’t have too much concern for those children once they reach school. Hence, the need for voting.
It’s actually an embarrassment. I’ve made a concerted effort to vote in every major state and national election since 1992. Obviously, I haven’t always seen the results I’d like – but, at least I tried to make a difference.
Low voter turnouts appears to be a national trend. Last year only some 57.5% of eligible voters made it to the polls; lower than in the 2 previous elections, but surpassing the dismal rate of 54.2% set in 2000. Critics at the time liked to point out that more people voted in “American Idol” than in the 2000 presidential elections. When you realize that, in 2012, Mexican voters turned out at a rate of 62.45% – despite the omnipresent threats of violence and endemic corruption – it certainly speaks poorly of Americans.
Voting is like budgeting: you just can’t let things go and hope for the best. It requires work and patience. It’s what any civilized society – not just the United States – is all about. It’s the foundation of democracy. It really does count.