Happy Voter Registration Day
Today, most American citizens over the age of 18 are eligible to vote in federal and state elections, but it has not always been so. The original Constitution, which defined our system of voting, was not specific about WHO could vote. This resulted in certain population groups, including African Americans and women, being excluded from voting rights until the late 1800s and early 1900s. The 15th Amendment was ratified in 1870 which allowed African American men to vote, and the voting rights act of 1965 removed other voting limitations for this group. Women were allowed to vote in 1920 following the suffrage movement and ratification of the 19th amendment. Finally, in 1971, the American voting age was lowered from 21 to 18. With such a hard-fought history, the right to vote is a key American freedom that should never be taken lightly.
WILL MY VOTE MAKE A DIFFERENCE?
The answer is categorically YES! According to The Constitution, members of the Senate and the House of Representatives are elected by popular vote, but the president must be elected by the Electoral College. The Electoral College assigns a representative number of votes per state, usually based on the state’s population. For example, Texas has 38 electors and California 55. Most states have a ‘winner takes all’ system where the winner of the popular vote gets all the electoral votes in the state. Because of this system, when your individual vote joins enough others in a voting district or county, it can have a real impact on electoral results. In 2016, President Trump won a very close race against Hillary Clinton based on the number of the Electoral College votes of key swing states. In local and state elections, where turnouts are typically low, your individual vote carries even more weight.
Studies on voter turnout demographics in the 2016 election show that race, age and education all played a signficant part in voter turnout: About 60% of white and African Americans voted compared to only 40% of Hispanic and other ethnicities. About 70% of people aged 60 or older showed up to vote, whereas only 40% of the 18-29 age group did. Finally, 70-80% of people with a college degree or higher voted, compared to only 50% of those with only a high school diploma. Young people, minorities and those without a college degree have an opportunity to make their voices heard louder by showing up to vote in this coming election.
HOW DO I REGISTER TO VOTE?
In order to vote, a person must be a U.S. Citizen, a resident of the county where you apply, at least 17 years, 10 months old and 18 on Election Day, not a convicted felon, and not declared mentally incompetent. You can register to vote in Texas or check your voter status at www.votetexas.gov. You must be registered by 10/5/2020 to vote in the November election. Once you are registered you will receive a voter registration certificate in the mail within 30 days, which tells you the precinct in which you can vote.
HOW AND WHERE DO I VOTE?
There are three ways to vote…
Absentee by mail—This is only allowed if you are away from your county on Election day and during early voting, if you are sick or disabled, if you are 65 years of age or older on Election day, or if you are in jail but still eligible to vote.
In person at an early voting polling location—Required ID and voter registration rules apply.
In person at your designated polling location on Election day—Required ID and voter registration rules apply.
If you are uncertain of your polling location, contact your county clerk. Also, contact your local elections office for information on changes to mail-in ballot requirements due to COVID-19 this year.
2020 has been a year filled with bizarre and unprecedented events that have left most of us wondering what the future may hold. Not the least of these uncertainties is who will be the president following the election. Murder hornets and pandemics aside, one thing you CAN control is your vote, so let’s not waste it!