“Why vote,” you ask? The decision to vote is a heart issue. It’s not about the candidates — it’s about you and your American heritage. It’s about the fight that each generation before you — all the way back to the American Revolution — who actually gave us our independence to choose to govern ourselves.
Take a look at 10 reasons why you should vote, if you haven’t already.
1. Vote to honor the more than one million service members who died to secure and keep the freedoms you enjoy today — including your right to vote. Remember service members like Staff Sgt. Jacob Frazier of St. Charles Ill., who was killed in March 2003 when his patrol unit was ambushed in Afghanistan. He was 24 years old. Frazier joined the Illinois Air National Guard in 1998, a year after he graduated high school. The oldest of five children, Frazier was a wrestler, all-conference football player and a member of the choir. He was engaged to be married when he gave his life for your freedom.
2. Vote with respect for the service and sacrifice made by the 23,234,000 veterans living among you today. Richard Overton of Austin, Texas, is America’s oldest veteran. Overton, who recently celebrated his 110th birthday, fought in the 1887th Engineer Aviation Battalion in World War II, and served as a corporal in Hawaii, Guam, and Iwo Jima.
3. Cast your vote because men like Thomas Dorr challenged the status quo. Although the American Revolution was fought in part over the issue of voting, the right to vote was reserved for white, male landowners. In 1841, Dorr, a Rhode Island state legislator and son of a wealthy business owner illegally met with men without a voice in elections. Together, they drafted a state constitution that gave all white males over the age of 21 the right to vote. Dorr took a stand in what became knowns as the “Dorr War.” Dorr’s stolen cannons failed to fire, and Dorr, declared guilty of insurrection, went to prison with a hard labor sentence. He was pardoned two years later. States eventually changed laws requiring property ownership to be a voting requirement.
4. Cast your vote in tribute to Lucy Burns, a founder of the National Women’s Party (NWP), who, along with other demonstrators, stood outside the White House as President Woodrow Wilson took office, demanding that women be given the right to vote. She held round-the-clock vigils that lasted more than six months. Burns and other protestors held banners and burned copies of Wilson’s speeches. Arrests began in June and once protestors served their time, they returned to the White House to protest once again. That November, in what became known as the “Night of Terror 1917,” prison guards at the Occoquan Workhouse in Virginia went on a rampage against 33 protestors. Burns, beaten and bleeding, spent the night with her hands chained to the cell bars in a tortuous position.
5. Vote because Alice Paul, also a founder of the NWP, had a reputation for using confrontational visual media to make her point. Arrested and jailed numerous times in 1917, for protesting, Paul went on a hunger strike. In response, guards at the Occoquan Workhouse in Virginia bound her to a chair, forced a tube down her throat and poured liquid down her throat until she vomited. This went on for weeks until the appalling tale was exposed to the press. She also endured the horrific events of the “Night of Terror 1917” which eventually paved the way for women to win the right to vote in 1919. Paul also was credited with organizing a woman’s political party, the National Woman’s Party. Many women in the suffragette movement didn’t support it because they were afraid it would alienate Democrats who were already supportive of their cause.
6. Vote to honor Mary Church Terrell, a catalyst to civil-rights changes. She served as a charter member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) women’s rights movement. She helped lead a drive to secure equality with the right to vote. She was one of the first African American women to earn a college degree in 1884, and later pioneered new ground against Jim Crow laws.
7. Exercise your right to vote because Vernon Dahmer, a wealthy businessman, stood against voter suppression. Southern states created Jim Crow laws during the later 19th and early 20th centuries, to suppress poor and racial minority voters. When Dahmer made his offer to pay poll taxes for those who couldn’t afford the fee over a radio broadcast, his home was firebombed and Dahmer eventually died from the severe burns Jan. 10, 1966, in Hattiesburg, Miss.
8. Cast your vote in remembrance of Rev. George Lee, who spoke from his pulpit and used his printing press to encourage others to vote. He was one of the first blacks registered to vote in Humphreys County, Mississipi. White officials urged Lee to stop his efforts with the promise of protection. When he refused, he was murdered May 7, 1955.
9. Vote because Jonathan Myrick Daniels, a Boston seminary student, went to Alabama to assist with black voter registration. He was arrested during a demonstration and thrown in jail. He was released only to be shot to death moments later by a deputy sheriff on Aug. 20, 1965.
10. Finally, vote in memory of Harry Tyson Moore and his wife, Harriette Vyda Simms Moore, both African American educators, who died after their home in Mims, Fla., was bombed on Christmas evening 1951. Moore, a pioneer leader of the civil rights movement, which included the fight for the right for blacks to vote. Moore, the founder of the first branch of the NAACP, died in an ambulance on the way to a hospital. His wife died from her injuries Jan. 3, 1952.