BY RAFFI HAMPARIAN
What does a woman getting arrested for voting in a Presidential election and a U.S. dollar have in common? More on that later.
With Election Day less than two months away, it is time to start focusing on voting.
Whether you vote by mail, through an absentee ballot or enjoy the experience of going to the polling place near your home, the time has come for you to exercise your right to vote.
For many, Election Day represents a series of choices about candidates, for positions ranging from local mayor and city clerk to state level officials. At the federal level, you will vote on who will be your U.S. Representative, and some of you will have a chance to help choose your U.S. Senator. And, of course, we will all get to vote in the Presidential election.
Yet, for some, the election this November holds no meaning. It has no significance because they are among the millions of American citizens who are not registered to vote. These individuals do not have a voice in selecting a candidate for city council, a mayoral candidate or even who will be in the White House for the next four years.
According to the 2010 U.S. Census, the overall voting age (18 and older) population in the United States in 2008 was 206 million. Of this total, 146 million (71%) reported being registered to vote. Simply put, that means millions of Americans are not registered to vote. That is a shame. Because according to the U.S. Census the percentage of those registered to vote that actually did vote in the 2008 election cycle was 90 percent. That is a refreshingly strong figure.
So what are the reasons people do not vote? The 2010 U.S. Census found the following:
The most common reason people did not vote was that they claimed they were too busy (27 percent). Another 16 percent felt that their vote would not make a difference.
That’s the diagnosis: Apathy.
The good news is that the Armenian National Committee of America – Western Region and its many dynamic local chapters have the cure: The recently launched Hyevotes initiative is the antidote to voter apathy.
With a fresh enthusiasm, a love of democracy and a goal of registering thousands of Armenian Americans, Hyevotes is just what our community needs as we approach Election Day this November.
With a small army of volunteers, the Hyevotes campaign is more American than apple pie. Registering new voters, old or young, reinvigorates our democracy and renews our great American experiment in self-government.
Now back to that woman arrested for voting and the U.S. dollar.
The year was 1872 and the Presidential race in the United States featured incumbent Ulysses S. Grant.
The woman was Susan B. Anthony and her crime, according to the U.S. Deputy Marshal who arrested her, was that she voted in the Presidential election.
She was, according to the historical record, tried and convicted seven months after casting her ballot.
And for the record, according to what she shared with fellow civil rights activist Elizabeth Cady Stanton, she “positively voted the Republican ticket.”
Susan B. Anthony, who dedicated her life to securing the right to vote for women, would never get to “legally” vote in the United States.
She would die in 1906, a full fourteen years before the adoption of the 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which extended to women this inalienable right.
For her vision in seeking universal suffrage Susan B. Anthony was the first woman depicted on a U.S. coin – the Susan B. Anthony dollar – first minted on July 2, 1979.
The Hyevotes initiative honors Susan B. Anthony and all Americans who have strived and sacrificed to ensure the right to vote can be both enjoyed and exercised by all.
Raffi Haig Hamparian is a member of the Armenian National Committee of America’s national Board of Directors.
As a footnote and a fact that Susan B. Anthony would have enjoyed, according to the US Census Bureau, women had a higher voting rate (66 percent) than males (62 percent) in the 2008 Presidential election.