Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Election Day - Go Vote

The hallowed halls of the Virginia General Assembly never heard such a speech as the one Mary Johnston gave before the learned politicos on January 19, 1912.

An advocate for a woman’s right to vote, Johnston, a Botetourt County native and by then a much-accomplished and well-respected author (she wrote To Have and To Hold, The Long Roll, Hagar, and over 25 other books), told the legislatures that she paid $1,000 annually in taxes to the state, yet had no voice in how the revenue was spent.

Her family settled western Virginia and had fought in all of the country’s wars up to that time. Yet recent male immigrants, who knew nothing of democracy, she said, were treated as if they knew better than she what the interests of the state might be.

“We are asking that those who live under the laws of a state . . . may have something to do with the making of those laws,” Johnston said in another speech, this time before a meeting of governors. “We are asking that we who pay a very considerable portion of the taxes of the State and of the country may have a voice in the apportionment of those taxes. We are asking that we who work may have a say as to the conditions under which we work.”

For six years, Johnston gave up much of her life so that women could obtain the right to vote. She suffered from vicious personal attacks from anti-suffrage groups. She did not give up.

How sad then that today, the local voter registrar expects far less than half the entire population of the county to turn out when the polls open today.

Less than 100 years after Mary Johnston took a stand and fought for the right to vote, have we thrown it away? If just half the population votes, and half of those are female, then only 25 percent of the women in this area will bother to exercise a right for which some women were imprisoned.

In this new millennium, I have heard calls a late night radio talk shows advocate a change in the voting laws so that only landowners could vote.

I have heard other people advocate taking the vote from women and from minorities. No doubt about it, at this very moment, there are folks working to undermine a linchpin of democracy that 50 percent of you, male and female, black or white, apparently take for granted.

If you don’t vote, they could very well be successful, because you can be sure they will vote for candidates who think similarly.

Voting is your right. It is also your duty as a citizen to take this single action every year to ensure that the county or the country is overseen by the best person.

So make plans now to go vote. Be a little late for work this morning.

It’s that important.

*A version of this essay originally ran on October 24, 2007.*


  1. I voted absentee (Florida). I'd recommend all women to watch the movie "Iron Jawed Angels" to appreciate your ability to vote.

  2. This give me a chill. It's shocking that women had to fight so hard for their rights. I'm just waiting for my hair to dry to go.

  3. We voted. I was really upset when a man standing outside our voting place said, "Here's a sample ballot." When we looked at it, it highlighted Hurt's name and made it appear that that was who you had to vote for. We understood what was going on immediately but I imagine there are some people who would be tricked by this. Perhaps older people. Or first time voters. Very deceptive and unpatriotic--tricking people into voting for you is not the way democracy is supposed to work. It's a way to take freedom away.

  4. I voted too here in PA. I try to take my kids along with me each time I go so they can learn about the process and understand the importance of voting, especially my two girls.


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