Tonight I watched Iron Jawed Angels--an HBO movie about Alice Paul, one of the leaders in the women's suffrage movement. Her more brazen tactics of demonstrating and going on a hunger strike after her unconstitutional arrest/incarceration is a riveting story of determination, commitment and speaking truth to power. I guess women have only had the right to vote in America for about 90 years. (The amendment was added in 1920.)
I'm a little embarrassed to say that I didn't know much detail about this movement. It's pretty significant because while an effort to get women the vote had started well before 1920, it took the confluence of a few states independently granting the female vote, World War I and the highly publicized illegal detainment of Alice Paul & the suffrage demonstrators to get this amendment enacted.
I bet these ladies would be mortified that not only do many modern day women not know about the amount of resistance and sacrifice they endured, but that many citizens male & female take this right for granted. I then immediately wanted to know how many people have previously not voted in the 2004 Election.
Eligible to vote in 2004: 215,694,000
Voted in 2004: 125,736,000, 58%
Did Not Vote in 2004: 89,958,000, 42%
Source: US Census
I know alot of people have felt removed from what goes on in politics, like they don't make a difference or that they are so busy living their lives that they don't have time learn about issues and candidates. Even though I have voted ever since I was 18, there were times I wasn't fully informed about what or who I was voting for. Sometimes I didn't want to bother myself with politics because it seemed like it didn't affect me or the things politicians talked about were tedious & stupid. When I look back on that, I can't help but feel a little ashamed because now I see what it means to have a vote, that you can't really be a full fledged citizen without one and if the last 8 years have shown us anything, it's that who we elect really does matter.
I simply don't understand why registering to vote in America isn't compulsory. I've heard other countries like Canada, send you a registration card as soon as you turn 18. It isn't a sign up--you just are registered. I think in the last 8 years especially we've seen what can happen when you leave the governing up to the politicians. When the media and the constituancy fall asleep at the switch. Just like assuming the banks would behave in their customers best interests, we know that even the most-seasoned politicians cannot be soley left to their own devices. I'm looking at you Ted Stevens.
So if you are American and of age, as your priviledge, right & duty of being a citizen, learn about the issues & candidates and go vote next Tuesday.