On November 3rd, we will have the opportunity to cast our vote in the election of officials in our state, as well as in the national presidential race. This election is particularly important as we find ourselves navigating unprecedented times and such issues as COVID 19, police violence, women’s rights, racial equity, climate and pollution, taxes and unemployment, tuition affordability, and access to higher education. These concerns will be directly affected by the choices we make as we fill out our ballots.
It is crucial that we do not take this right or duty lightly. As Minnesota’s Attorney General Keith Ellison reminds us: “Not voting is not a protest. It is a surrender.”
The right to vote was hard-won by Black, Indigenous, people of color, and by women. Historically, the Constitution only permitted white male citizens over the age of 21 to vote.
Under the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to the Constitution, all male citizens were made eligible to vote during Reconstruction, post-Civil War. However, Blacks still faced discriminatory practices that included poll taxes, grandfather clauses, and literacy tests that prevented them from fully accessing the polls. It was not until President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act in 1965 that Blacks were legally granted full voting rights. Yet, across the U.S., we still witness the right to vote denied for many African Americans.
Though the Fifteenth Amendment in 1870 granted U.S. citizenship and the right to vote regardless of race, it was not until the 1924 Snyder Act that Native Americans/Indigenous people were legally provided the right to vote.
Similarly, women did not have the right to vote until 1920, when the Nineteenth Amendment was passed. Many suffragettes were tortured and died in their fight to vote. The road to this fundamental right for all men and women has come about through much struggle and bloodshed.
I share some of these historical details to remind us all that it is vital that we exercise our right to vote. To do otherwise would constitute a failure in the American democratic process to have our voices heard and our votes counted.
Voter registration in North Carolina ends on October 9th, and early voting begins on October 15th. For detailed information about registration, early voting, voting by mail and voting on Election Day, please visit diversity.unc.edu/vote/.
Sibby Anderson Thompkins, Ph.D.
Special Advisor to the Provost and Chancellor for Equity & Inclusion/
Interim Chief Diversity Officer