Before the American Revolution, it used to be that the English king had much say in who was typically appointed for certain offices. In 1787, the passage of the U.S. Constitution gave white male property owners age 21 and over the right to vote. Acts were later conceived from 1807-1843 that changed requirements that all white men age 21 and over could vote regardless of property ownership. After the Civil War in 1870, the 15th Amendment guaranteed the right to vote to all men age 21 and older regardless of race, ethnicity and economic background. It was not until 1920 that women, through the 19th Amendment, won the right to vote, as well.
However, many states and their officials regularly prevented blacks and other minorities from either registering to vote or from being able to cast their ballots through the use of tests, clauses and especially intimidation tactics. It was not until 1965 that the Voting Rights Act allowed the federal government to take over areas while enforcing provisions previously guaranteed in the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments that were conceived originally almost a century earlier. In 1971, the 26th Amendment lowered the voting age across the nation to the age of 18.
Lastly, another important year within our voting history is 1982, when the Voting Rights Act gave us further provisions for disabled Americans and those not able to read, write or speak English. Laws were enacted to extend to all of us the ability to have a say. Blood was shed, and sacrifices were made to give us as individuals, as a community and as a nation choices. Over the years, those choices have declined because of lower voter turnout, interest or belief that their voice does not matter. Well, all voices do matter regardless of gender, race, ethnicity or even economic background. Nov. 6 is the presidential election, along with ballots for other governmental candidates who will be making the decisions for us when they take office; there are also important ballot questions.
My advice, whether you agree or do not agree, is carpe diem; get out and seize the day — seize that moment to make history by knowing that your voice does matter.
Tammy A. Callanan is a lifelong Salem resident.