Foxx: Does Voting Matter?

Los Alamos

It is Aug. 18, 2016 as I write this. Ironically, it is the 96th anniversary of the 19th Amendment that gave women the right to vote. And I ask myself “Does voting really matter?”

I once read a book called “Having Our Say, The Delany Sisters First 100 Years.” It was about two African American Sisters, Sadie and Bessie Delany (born in 1889 and 1890). It is their real life stories of trials, and tribulations they faced during their century of life. In their book, they describe their excitement at being able to vote for the very first time.

To them it was not only a milestone but a momentous event.Bessy says “But one of the happiest days of my life was back in 1920 when women got the right to vote. Sadie and I registered to vote immediately and we never missed a chance to vote since. Now (at over 100) where we vote, the people at the polls have come to know us. They say, “Here come the Delany sisters. We knew you’d get here, one way or another!” They go on to say we need to make sure we vote regardless of our ethnicity. Bessie says “It’s true that you can’t change the world with your one vote, but if you don’t vote, you don’t have the right to complain. And honey, I surely do not want to give up my right to complain, no sir!

As a woman born in the mid 20th Century when women could already vote, I took the privilege for granted. Reading the Delany Sisters comments, I was struck by the fact that American women had only been given the vote in the early part of the 20th Century. I hadn’t appreciated the discrimination, struggle and rejection women faced working to get us the privilege. And because my home state of Idaho gave women the vote in the 1890s, I didn’t realize how difficult the struggle was.

 By the time of my “aha moment”, my grandmothers (born in the late part of the 19th Century) were deceased. How I wished that I had asked the simple question “How did it feel when you first got to walk into a polling station and vote?”

Today we take the privilege of being able to vote for granted. But think about the fact that it hasn’t been 100 years since women of the US were able to make their voices heard through the ballot box. The 19th amendment which gave women the right to vote was ratified Aug. 18, 1920, yet our Constitution was ratified in 1788, 132 years earlier.The women who worked to make laws more equal for women suffered rejection and struggles, but for them, failure was not an option. It makes me recognize that not voting is not an option because if I don’t vote I don’t honor their sacrifices.

There are times I feel voting is just an idle exercise. But regardless of our political choices, it is important we make a choice. The Delany sisters remind us of the opportunities we have and as they say if we don’t vote we don’t have the right to complain.