Having the ability to vote is an American right that many do not take advantage of as they feel their vote won’t make a difference. Since the civil rights era, Black Americans have been fighting for the right to vote and have the value of that vote equal to that of White Americans.
Even though Blacks voted in 1870, they faced difficulties — being denied the right to vote by state laws; poll taxes; literacy tests; and intimidation from Whites. Some votes were thrown out of the ballot by the people in charge of the poll. That did not stop Black voters, but led to Hiram Revels, and Blanche Bruce becoming the first African-Americans to be elected to the U.S. Senate, representing the state of Mississippi.
Voting obstacles remained until the 1965 voting rights act was passed. This act removed the barriers that once limited Black Americans from voting and has led to many of them holding prominent positions in the U.S. Congress.
Although obstacles were removed, the problem with voting and people trying to control the ballot still remains.
According to a local news report, a woman in East Hollywood recently found more than 100 unopened, undelivered ballots on a sidewalk. The women called the registrar’s office and had the ballots picked up.
“Thanks to the cooperation of the person who found the ballots, we were able to quickly respond and coordinate the secure pickup of the ballots,” said a representative from the registrar’s office. “We have reissued new ballots to the impacted voters. Early signs indicate that this was an incident of mail theft and not a directed attempt at disrupting the election. We are cooperating with the United States Postal Service and law enforcement to investigate.”
It is even more important to vote in local and state elections, as the candidates who get elected will have an impact on the community.
Gloria Medina, executive director of the community organization Strategic Concepts in Organizing and Policy Education (SCOPE), wants people to take voting seriously.
“One of the things that SCOPE is doing to engage voters is phone banking, canvassing, door-to-door advice-giving, and talking to them by giving them different options on how to vote,” she said. “We educate them on the process of voting, we prioritize telling each voter to look up candidates and see where their values lie. We just remind them that if they don’t vote, others will vote and who they vote for may or may not want to help out South L.A. or minorities communities.
Every state has different rules and qualifications when it comes to being able to vote and getting qualified to vote. For California residents to qualify for voting, you need to be 18 years or older; not serving time at a state or federal prison term for a felony charge; not currently found mentally incompetent to vote by a court; and must be registered to vote in California.
Voters have the right to vote if they are still in line when the polls close; the right to drop off their ballot by mail; and the right to get election materials in a different language.
For more information about voting, visit www.sos.ca.gov.