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The right to vote is precious; it is what allows United States citizens the opportunity to share their voice, be recognized and choose who they want to represent them. However and unfortunately, it isn’t always guaranteed for everyone within the U.S.
On Jan. 19, the Senate blocked a voting rights bill that would secure the rights of voting for several marginalized groups. This legislation included the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and the Freedom to Vote Act, both of which would have attempted to dismantle restrictions placed on voting.
The Freedom to Vote Act argued for Election Day to become recognized as a national holiday so that voting on Election Day would not involve taking a day off work or leaving to vote during one’s lunch break. It also would require every state to have mail-in ballot options and allow for more than just an ID to be the form of identification along with other necessary accessibility accommodations.
Jessica Jackson, an assistant history professor at Colorado State University, said this bill strived to dismantle the idea of “citizenship stripping,” which “symbolically (sends) a message about who is or is not ‘American.’”
Voting rights are granted to Americans through gained citizenship and through gained amendments that Americans fought for decades ago. Still, these rights are frequently challenged by state governments that want to deny a large portion of the population the opportunity to have a voice within this democracy.
These rights are restricted and challenged when they should remain secure, and there should never even be questions as to whether they could or should be removed.
Everyone within the United States is given a voice — a voice to change lives, a voice to speak out against all the horrors of the world and even a voice to establish what they truly want out of life. Taking away the opportunity for marginalized people to vote is truly taking away and diminishing voices that need to be heard.
The opportunity to make a change in the United States was fought for and established for most people in 1920. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 strengthened this establishment. It was a moment of relief, a moment when those who fought made a step in the right direction in legislature and a step toward changing the world that made them feel small.
Individuals officially gained the ability to voice their beliefs; however, that voice should never have had the chance to be taken away or diminished in the first place. If all we ever listen to are those who hold power, what happens to the rest of us and the rest of our voices?
Who really has the voice, the power and the opportunity to fight for or vote for what they want? Something that is a citizenry right should never be up for reconsideration, especially from lawmakers who don’t know what it is like to have their own voice diminished.
It is time to fight and learn. This fighting does not have to be bloody but rather done through knowledge, awareness, advocacy and listening to help others have their voices heard. Whether you are fighting for yourself or fighting for someone who is in your corner, it is time to make that change.
Jackson stated that to start fighting for the rights of these marginalized peoples involves awareness within your own community. It begins with taking the time to “notice (the) coded language” that is used by those in power — by taking the time to not only understand what is happening but also to ask for help.
Voting is not something that should be so hard to do within the United States, especially because we are a democracy. Being able to vote means being able to choose who or what you think best represents you or your beliefs. No matter your race, gender or ethnicity, it should be easy to do without having to prove who you are or missing a day of work.
This voting rights legislation was trying to secure this natural right but fell short. This means it is time for us to prove the necessity of this act before it’s too late and more damage and harm is caused.
Reach Dominique Lopez at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @caffeinateddee6.