“It would be transformative if everybody voted — that would counteract money more than anything.The people who tend not to vote are young, they’re lower income, they’re skewed more heavily towards immigrant groups and minority groups. There’s a reason why some folks try to keep them away from the polls.”
—President Barack Obama
Last weekend, I went to see Selma for the second time. The movie had a significant effect on me, and really made me think about how much I take voting for granted–even though my forebearers did not have the same right fifty years ago. They were willing to sacrifice their blood, sweat, tears, and even their very lives to obtain suffrage. They faced many barriers to voting, including poll taxes, vouchers, and having to have inconsequential and nuanced knowledge of the government–obstacles that their white counterparts did not have to deal with. By even attempting to vote, they were putting themselves and their families in danger.
The recent commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of Bloody Sunday, a critical event in the Voting Rights Movement, thus served as a celebration of their valiant efforts and a reminder of the importance of voting. For them, it was one step closer to attaining political, economic, and social equality in a country that had subjugated them since its very founding. It continues to play an integral role in today’s fight for justice.
Without voting, we end up with officials who do not have our best interest in mind. Without voting, we end up with policies that serve to further disenfranchise us and reverse the progress that those of the past fought so hard to attain. Voting is critical to everyone, and to us progressing as a nation. That being said, I do not agree with the idea of mandatory voting as I believe that it goes against the very essence of democracy.
Instead, we would be better served by ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to vote, for although the Voting Rights Act was passed in 1965, many of its provisions have been struck down; this has led to many fighting once again for the right to vote. Unfortunately, we have not progressed as much as we would like to believe. History has a way of repeating itself.