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Letter: A right or a privilege?

Is voting a right or a privilege? Depending on what part of the United States you are in, the answer may be varied. America has a long and bloodied struggle with passing voting rights for all citizens of this country. The struggle continues to this day.

In 1965 the country witnessed a peaceful march by black citizens in Selma, Alabama. They were met by violent acts of police brutality, which played out on national TV when marchers organized to protest the voting rights for black citizens. Prominent politicians marched alongside Alabamans with their arms linked in solidarity.

“Our right to vote is on the line.” — John Lewis

Later that year, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, was signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson. The act prohibited racial discrimination in voting, protecting the right to vote for racial minorities in the U.S. and especially in the American South. Over five decades later, voting rights are slowly being eroded.

“Voting is the foundation stone for political action.” — Martin Luther King Jr.

Voting during a pandemic and work-restricted voting hours, as well as early closing of poll sites outside city limits, has inhibited voters across some states like Georgia, Florida, and Texas from casting their ballots recently. They have also been restricted from voting by mail, unlike many states that have that safe privilege. Many voters continue to be disenfranchised from the voting experience and thus keeping them away from the polls.

When eligible voters are turned away or have been denied access to voting, we only hear the voices of a select group, not the will of the people. We are no longer a democracy. Your voice through voting is your fundamental right, not a privilege. We should follow other countries where voting is mandatory at age 18, and in some instances, a national holiday — where understanding the policies and issues are general conversation to be debated amongst one’s peers. It offers a healthy forum of conversation that leads to responsible voting.

A year ago we experienced an assault on our democracy when our very election was held in question. Violent mobs surrounded our capital to halt the electoral process as it played out on live TV.

United States Constitution: “The fifteenth amendment prohibits the federal government and each state from denying or abridging a citizen's right to vote on account of race or color, or previous condition of servitude." February 3, 1870.

Now is the time to demand equal voting rights across this country for every eligible citizen. Your voice is powerful; democracy depends on it —  never forget.

Christine Plant

Napa

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