Voter registration: ‘It takes less than 2 minutes’
Tuesday, September 20 marks the 10th anniversary of National Voter Education Day. This civic and nonpartisan holiday was created to help educate and unite the American people. Volunteers from all over the country flood busy college campuses, libraries, and workplaces to help people register or update their registration to vote. The holiday also has a massive social media presence that provides resources for people to register online. These efforts have led to an impressive 4.7 million people registering to vote on the civic holiday over a span of ten years.
Registering to vote has never been easier. Many sites such as nationalvoterregistrationday.org and nonprofitvote.org state that registering “takes less than 2 minutes.” Although registering to vote is only a click away, we must acknowledge that the right to vote didn’t come easily. This National Voter Registration Day, may we remember the American heroes who planted the seeds for the garden from which we now reap. The right for all to vote would not have been possible without those who marched, protested, and voted for a more inclusive democracy.
The women of the early 1800s were among some of these early fighters. They lived without the right to vote on decisions that would directly impact them and their families. Elizabeth Cady Stanton is credited as the “chief philosopher of the woman’s rights and suffrage movement.”
She, along with Susan B. Anthony, created the National Women Suffrage Association in 1869 which fought for a universal-suffrage amendment to the Constitution. This Amendment was not ratified until 1920, 18 years after Stanton passed away. Despite dedicating their lives, many of the early founding mothers of the movement wouldn’t live to legally cast a ballot themselves.
The 19th Amendment, which guarantees women the right to vote, was an essential step toward creating a more inclusive democracy, yet equality was not ensured as discriminatory state voting laws prevented Blacks and other minority groups from exercising their democratic voice. While Black men could legally vote since 1870 thanks to the 14th and 15th Amendments, they were discriminated against through Jim Crow laws which prevented the majority from actually exercising this right. These laws included discriminatory measures such as literacy tests and poll taxes. It was through the valiant efforts of the civil rights movement that the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was passed. This law prohibited literacy tests, poll taxes, and other discriminatory voting practices. The impact of this law was immediate, as prior to its signing, “only an estimated twenty-three percent of voting-age blacks were registered nationally, but by 1969 the number had jumped to sixty-one percent.”
Decades after the 19th Amendment and Voting Rights Act passed, National Voter Registration Day seeks to help Americans take advantage of the rights that have been fought for. Data from the 2020 election shows that one in four eligible Americans is not registered to vote. National Voter Registration Day proudly states that they “want to make sure everyone has the opportunity to vote” and “reach tens of thousands of voters who may not register otherwise.”
Throughout 10 years of service, 4.7 million voters registered on the holiday, with 1.5 million voters registering in 2020. This year the holiday has a goal of 800,000 registrants, which would bring the total number of voters the nonpartisan campaign has registered to more than 5 million.
National Voter Registration Day also acknowledges the voting gap between white voters and nonwhite voters. In the 2020 election, 70.9 percent of registered white voters participated in the election compared to only 58.4 percent of registered nonwhite voters. Census data also show that 74 percent of white voters were registered to vote while only 69 percent of Black, 63 percent of Asian, and 61 percent of Latino voters were registered.
It is no secret that the votes of people of color have a harder time making it to the polling place. As of 2021, The Brennan Center found that “18 states have passed 34 restrictive voting laws, which can disproportionately affect voters of color.” Such laws include strict voter ID laws, Sunday voting limitations, and polling place closures.
In response to these limitations, President Biden declares, “For our democracy to work, it is up to all of us to protect the right to vote — and to exercise it. The first step that all of us can take is to make sure that we are registered to vote. Each year, National Voter Registration Day reminds us of our right and our responsibility, as individual citizens and as one Nation, to exercise the sacred right to vote and ensure that our voices are heard.”
To echo President Biden, the first step in honoring history’s battle for voting rights and combating current restrictive policies is to REGISTER TO VOTE!