Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Historical perspective on Election Day

Here is a bit of historical perspective on Election Day by Garrison Keillor at Writer’s Almanac:

Today is Election Day. Millions of people across the country will be going to the polls today to elect new legislators, judges, sheriffs, and school board members. For the first 50 years of American elections, only 15 percent of the adult population was eligible to vote. To be eligible to vote at the time, you had to be a white male property owner. In Connecticut, you had to be a white male property owner of a "quiet and peaceable behavior and civil conversation."

Thomas Dorr was one of the first politicians to argue that poor
people should be given voting rights. As a member of the Rhode Island legislature, Dorr argued that all white adult men should have the vote, regardless of their wealth. He incited a riot to protest the governor's election of 1842 and went to prison for treason, but most states began to let poor white men vote soon after. Women were given the right to vote in 1920, and many African Americans were prevented from voting in the South until the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965. Today, the only group of adult American citizens who are regularly prevented from voting are convicted felons.

Gore Vidal said, "Half of the American people never read a newspaper. Half never vote for president. One hopes it is the same half."

W.C. Fields said, "I never vote for anyone. I always vote against."

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