Note: This is a guest post from Appleseed intern Lee Kreimer.
As a 22-year-old college student, I can’t tell you how many times I have been informed of my naivety and my wishful thinking about the importance of voting.
“It does nothing.” “My vote won’t matter anyway.” Or, my favorite response: “Why should I give my opinion about politics? The system is messed up anyway.”
To all three responses and to many more potential excuses, I adamantly disagree. Of course, we can’t talk about the importance of voting without considering one’s very right to vote in the United States. Until February 3, 1870, voting rights were restricted solely to white men. On that date, the 15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was passed, which stated that, “the right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.”
Following this date, the vote of African-American men was recognized under the Constitution. A woman’s right to vote wasn’t granted until almost 50 years later on May 19, 1919 (it was the 19th Amendment, in case you were wondering).
In addition to one’s legal right to vote, it’s important to consider the significance of civic responsibility. Just as it’s important to abide by the laws put forth for all citizens, so too is it important for citizens to contribute to the governing body of the country. A democracy is put in place by the votes and sentiments of its constituents.
Your opinions, wishes, and concerns matter. If you feel strongly about a political issue, the representative in your area should hear your thoughts. The United States was founded on principles of civic responsibility and liberty. Those values still hold true today.
One can’t talk about the importance of voting without recognizing its effect on the outcome. In the 2014 general election period in Nebraska, the race for State Senator in Legislative District 32 (composed of Fillmore, Jefferson, Lancaster, Saline, and Thayer counties in southeast Nebraska) resulted in a win by Laura Ebke over her opponent, Phil Hardenburger with a margin of only 161 votes.
Other races in areas with smaller populations have been determined by a difference of less than 40 votes! Numerically speaking, your vote can be a deal-breaker for a representative in your area.
With these thoughts in mind, who is eligible to vote in the state of Nebraska?
Our friends at Nebraskans for Civic Reform, helpfully crafted a list of the requirements including:
- Must be a U.S. citizen
- Must reside in Nebraska
- Must be 18 years of age by the general election day (the Tuesday after the first Monday in November)
- Must either have not been convicted of a felony or have had two years pass since the completion of your sentence from a felony
- Must not have been found mentally incompetent to be eligible
As the upcoming election cycle nears, remember: YOUR VOTE REALLY DOES COUNT!