1870: The 15th Amendment is ratified
The 15th Amendment of the United States Constitution declares 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”. They relentlessly fought for my freedoms.
1920: The 19th Amendment is ratified
The 19th amendment of the United States Constitution declares 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 sex”. They actively fought for my freedoms.
1971: The 26th Amendment is ratified
The 26th amendment of the United States Constitution declares that the “right of citizens of the United States, who are eighteen years of age or older, to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of age”. They courageously fought for my freedoms.
2004: My first time at the polls
At four years old, I quickly learned that Election Days were not simply days off school to spend basking freely in the sunlight and blue sky. Instead, they were extra special days dedicated to practicing our voting rights to maintain the freedoms under the bright blue skies which I had the privilege to oh so freely enjoy.
In order to become a future productive member of society, I always tagged along to the polls. Every Presidential, General, and each election in between, I was my mother’s partner in crime behind the voting booth curtain. This was the first of many years to come at the polls.
As I unstrapped from my car seat, I couldn’t stop my eager, chubby legs from running towards the woman holding a gigantic box of Philly Soft Pretzels. As a child, the reward associated with voting was food. Today, the rewards associated with voting are my eternal freedoms and right to choose. Waiting in line for my snack, my ocean eyes scanned the line and realized three crucial things: pamphlets, pride, purpose. Once we entered, standing in the booth behind the black curtain that ensured voter privacy made me feel like a bunny in a magic act: important and magical. Ultimately, I wanted to scream “abra kadabra” when we finally stepped out.
Throughout our time in the booth, I stood on the tippy toes of my scuffed purple sneakers and tugged at my mom’s arm. Insisting that she let me light up the green buttons next to the candidates’ name, she read aloud and explained her actions. I was four. This curiosity has never escaped, and I thank the polls that day for being welcoming enough to instill a lasting sense of pride and importance in my voting rights today.
2018: My first time voting! No polls? No problem.
If you think the magic in voting disappears when voting by absentee ballot, I challenge you to take note of the endless possibilities around you provided by the single piece of cardstock you hold in your hand. Not only are you granted the freedoms and power to choose our leaders, both locally and federally, but also the power to inspire those around you.
This first time at the “polls” as a registered voter makes receiving mail feel as exciting as it did when you got a birthday party invitation at age six. It provides you with the opportunity to help those around you register for the future, discuss controversial issues, learn from other young voters, have informed political debates, and find your newest candidate research partners.
With every circle I fill with black ink, the little girl inside me squeals with elation. The time I spend researching each candidate on my ballot, ensuring that I use my rights as efficiently as possible, is some of my favorite time I spend throughout the year; especially my first time as an official voter. When I received my first absentee ballot for local elections during my Freshman year of college, it was the transformation of my young self into an independent woman who had been counting down the days until her voice would be amplified through the government’s megaphone. I have yet to walk through the door to the polls as a registered voter, but the doors that my absentee ballot have opened are much wider.
2020: Our future at the polls
The young girl who danced at the polls in her purple sneakers, who always craved to do it herself and know about every candidate on the ballot front and back, will finally vote in her first presidential election. It will be unconventional, but the tippy-toed little girl will stand tall as I lick the envelope closed and proudly send in my vote for which millions of women before me relentlessly fought. The polls will forever be a magical place. My right to vote will forever be a magical statement.
I understand how the polls can feel intimidating, inconvenient, and inappreciable given that you are “only one vote”. Please remember that your vote matters. Each of us plays a crucial role in American society. We tend to lose what we take for granted. Don’t lose your right to vote. Use your right to vote. Take your children to the polls. Take your children’s children to the polls. Take your children’s children’s children to the polls. Most importantly, take yourself to the polls. Using the voice that countless people fought for you to have is imperative. They didn’t fight for you to abuse the privilege. They fought for you to make a better today and a better tomorrow. Don’t let them down.
Xx, Lauren Whitman
University of Delaware, Delta Delta Delta