Sept. 21, 2019 — Perhaps the single most recognized and agreed upon right of an American citizen is the right to vote. This important link in the chain of democracy has been at the root of both triumph and tragedy since America’s inception in 1776.
Originally, those who were awarded the honor to vote were limited. The inability of Americans that were not property owners and that were women or people of color to vote was eventually recognized as unjust and these inequities were changed. Those changes took decades, and many suffered to move the nation to enact those socially important changes.
The idea that everyone is entitled to vote — and should be allowed to do so — is behind this Tuesday’s National Voter Registration Day. Locally, there will be a non-partisan group assembled at Siuslaw Public Library, 1460 Ninth St. in Florence, to inform and register interested residents from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Karin Radtke, one of the volunteers for the event, said the goal of the day is to register voters of all political persuasions.
“There will be 10 volunteers participating at the library on Tuesday and it is a completely non-partisan event,” Radtke said. “Volunteers at the information table will be a mixed group, some registered as Democrats and some Republicans, and maybe also other parties.”
Florence Mayor Joe Henry also believes the best way to have a positive impact on the community we live in is to exercise our right to vote.
“Many Americans, especially in today’s frantic political landscape, ask the question: ‘Why should I vote? My vote doesn’t count anyway,’” Henry said in an email. “Politics is complicated and becoming more so every year. Even at our local level, things can become complicated. What if we vote and it does not turn out the way we wanted? Does that mean we should hang our head and not vote? No. To the contrary; your vote is your voice and it is important that you make your voice heard.
“If you care about the future and want the best things for your family, other people and the environment, you should vote in every election.”
Since 1998, Oregon has established vote-by-mail as the standard mechanism for voting, making it the first state in the U.S. to conduct its elections exclusively by mail.
Recently, there has been a shift in the willingness of some state legislatures and representatives to Congress to encourage and facilitate voter registration. There have also been dramatic reductions in the hours that polling places are open in many states, with some, like North Carolina, even eliminating Sunday voting times.
These efforts have been recognized by courts as improper and there is a concerted counter-effort underway to allow as many Americans that are legally able to vote to participate.
Advocates of the belief that fewer voters participating in elections is good suggest that limiting the total numbers of Americans that vote will ultimately be beneficial without completely articulating the reasoning behind the position.
The results of the 2016 presidential elections show that thousands of eligible voters were turned away from polling places because of minor issues with state and county voter registration requirements. These voters were not allowed to exercise a basic tenant of citizenship because of a simple error.
These rejections could and did occur for reasons such as missing a registration deadline or for moving and not updating, prior to an election, the voter’s new address. Misspelled names on voter rolls also proved to be an issue for many seeking to cast a ballot. These discrepancies were factors in reducing overall voter participation.
The reaction has been to generate a nationwide effort to inform and register voters this time around.
The two main goals of the National Voter Registration Day, as detailed by nationalvoterregistrationday.org, are:
National Voter Registration Day is supported by a broad spectrum of organizations from across the political spectrum, including secretaries of state, state and local elections administrators, major nonprofits and nonprofit networks, schools and universities, libraries and other civically conscious businesses across America.
National Voter Registration Day definitely works as a tool for prompting interest and participation in voting related matters. During the 2018 National Voter Registration Day, more than 800,000 new names were added to voter rolls across the country.
“Next Tuesday, Sept. 24, is National Voter Registration Day and I encourage each and every eligible voter to get out there, register to vote and let your voice be heard,” Henry said.
The event in Florence on Tuesday will be an opportunity for new voters to register and for those who need to update their voter information or confirm their signature to do so.