Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Voting, History, and Women

Today is March 1st. It's Primary Day in Virginia.      
What if you didn't have the right to vote?

In many states in the union, you needed to be a property owner and pay a poll tax to be allowed to vote. This was true until well into the 20th century. In Russell County, that means that in 1860 of the 10,280 residents, less than half of them were eligible to vote. Neither could the white women; there were 4,514 white females in the county, of which maybe half were of an age to vote. The Supreme Court case that overturned the collection of the poll tax from voters in presidential elections originated here in Virginia...and was only overturned in 1964.

The nearly 1,000 black people who were slaves in Russell County in 1860 could not vote. The 15th Amendment (1870) prohibited denying any citizen the right to vote because of race, color or previous condition of servitude. But it was nearly 100 years before that amendment became a reality, for black men or women.

Almost every woman now alive in the United States was born with the right to vote. Oddly enough, many New England states did allow women to vote until the early 1800s. In the late 1800s four western states gave full voting rights to women. It wasn't until 1920, when the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was passed, that women were allowed to vote in federal elections.In 1920, the Russell County population was 26,786. The population of females over 21 was 5,562, while the male population over 21 was 6,347. 

Today in Russell County, only 18,500 people are registered to vote. (Of the approximately 28,897 people in Russell County, over 22,000 are old enough to vote.) If you are not registered, you can register and vote in the presidential election in November. Just get registered by September, and don't forget that photo ID when you head to the polls in November.

Are you registered to vote?       Will you vote today?