Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Happy Birthday 19th Amendment

Today marks 88 years of constitutionalized women's suffrage. On August 26, 1920, the U.S. Secretary of State certified the ratification of the 19th Amendment.

I found this map showing which states ratified the amendment. (Source.)

The colors mean: Ratification on June 10, 1919 (yellow); ratification from June 16, 1919 to July 28, 1919 (chartreuse [I'd call this green]); ratification from August 2, 1919 to December 15, 1919 (aqua); ratification from January 6, 1920 to March 22, 1920 (gray-green); ratification on August 18, 1920 (gray [I'd call this lavender]).

I think the first time I voted was in college, in the fall of 1995, when Ed Rendell was running for re-election as Mayer of Philadelphia. It took me a while to find my polling place. I was living off-campus so my polling site was a church in West Philly. I had to circle a few times before I found the entrance because the street corner was poorly lit. Then my name was listed incorrectly, although my voter id card that I'd brought with me was correct. Eventually I got to vote. It was the kind of machine where you pull down various levers and then swing a giant lever to the side to record your votes and clear them all at once when you're done.

I voted in the same place for Bill Clinton in 1996. In the fall of 1998, I voted absentee from London (casting a ballot in my home state of Indiana's election). In 2000 I voted absentee in the New York election because, although I lived in NY, I was in Florida working for Gore. My friend Andy K. helped make sure my absentee ballot got FedEx'd to me so I could return it in time. Even though I knew my presidential vote wouldn't do much in New York, I wanted to cast an official vote for Hillary Clinton for Senate, who I'd worked for briefly before heading to Florida.

I also remember when I got to Florida, I learned that not all voting machines used the lever systems I was used to using. Someone came into our field office and asked what the voting machine would be like. I said, "I think it's just a lever system." Our field office director said, "No, polling places use all kinds of different machines and types of ballots. It depends on your polling site." "Really?" I asked skeptically. "People vote on different types of machines in the same election?"

Yup. We really did have that conversation in Florida just a few days before Election Day 2000. If only we'd known what was to come.

Still, I love voting. I love voting. I view my vote as my voice and my power in America. Election results may be a foregone conclusion sometimes, but my vote is still part of that final count, and that means something to me.

As someone who worked in Florida in 2000, I have all kinds of things to say about who to vote for and why. But at the end of the day, I can't and don't believe anyone owes anyone else their vote. Just because one person weighs a set of pros and cons and decides to vote for candidate X, does not mean another person weighing the same pros and cons must come to the same conclusion. Sometimes I wish they did. So badly that it makes me cry for days, if not weeks, on end. Like in 2000. But...

Your vote is your voice -- to use in support, in protest, in silence as a statement, or however else you (legally) choose. It is the one power we all share as Americans. None of us have the right to dictate anyone else's voice. It's the control we give up and over to one another in this crazy democracy we call America.

And it's also why we should always, always, always make sure every vote is counted and counted correctly... and always keep a paper trail of those votes to prevent abuse... and not turn voters away from the polls under the guise of "preventing voter fraud"... and not disenfranchise felons who have already served their time. But those arguments are for another day.

I am so grateful that 88 years ago, a group of amazing women and men succeeded in giving me that voice I cherish today.

1 comment:

wheelsonthebus said...

Four years ago, I took a baby in with me to vote. This year, I hope to take all three children.