COLUMN: Go to the polls and vote on Nov. 8

Published 8:00 am Friday, November 4, 2022

Tuesday, Nov. 8 is Election Day (midterm elections) across America! It’s an opportunity to let your voices be heard by exercising your right to elect the best and most qualified candidates who, in your belief and to your knowledge, are going to be your leaders and effective public servants.

Although not mandatory, voting is a right, according to the U.S. Constitution. To vote is your civic duty and responsibility as responsible, democratic, and law-abiding citizens of this great republic, a leader of the Free World, where democracy reigns and liberty abounds. 

The right to vote (in public, political elections and referendums) is called suffrage, from the Latin word “suffragium,” meaning the right or privilege to vote in the United States. It is commonly associated with the 19- and early 20th-century voting rights movements.

The United States Declaration of Independence (of 1776, drafted by Thomas Jefferson, third U.S. president) made mention of our “unalienable rights” (to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness), given to all humans by their Creator and which governments are created to protect. Then years later, the right to vote subsequently followed.

“The Constitution guarantees the right to vote, not the right to a quick outcome,” wrote (William) Bill Frist in the Oct. 30, 2020 issue of Forbes magazine. A nationally recognized heart and lung transplant surgeon and former United States Majority Leader from Tennessee (2003-2007), Frist was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 1994, becoming the first practicing physician to serve in that body since 1928.

Hence, the right to vote is guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution, with Congress having the sole power to enforce this right by appropriate legislation/s.

Active participation in a democratic process, by voting in local, state, and national elections, is a must for all American citizens, like you and me. You and I have a very important role to play in the decision-making of our government. Hence, don’t waste it. Don’t waste your vote to be counted, your voice to be heard! Your vote is your voice, politically speaking.

For us, old and new students of U.S. history and government, reviewing a number of amendments to the U.S. Constitution (below) attests to the significance of the right to vote for Americans.

Section 2 of the 14th Amendment in The Constitution, ratified on July 9, 1868, explicitly mentioned the right to vote. At that time, only 21 year old male persons born or naturalized citizens in the United States and the State wherein they reside, with the exception of those who participate in rebellion or other crime, can participate in any election for the choice of electors for president and vice president of the United States, Representatives in Congress, the Executive and Judicial officers of a State.

With the birth of the women’s suffrage movement started by Lydia Taft of Massachusetts in 1756, and subsequently by other well-known female suffrage advocates and activists like Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucy Stone, and Susan B. Anthony, the right to vote for women gained momentum. Governor John Allen Campbell of the Wyoming Territory was the first governor to approve the first U.S. law granting women the right to vote on Dec. 10, 1869. Other states, like Idaho, Utah and Colorado, followed suit. Eventually, on June 4, 1920, Congress approved, and ratified by some states, the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution which prohibited state or federal sex-based restrictions on voting.

The 15th Amendment (Voting Rights 1870), ratified on Feb. 3, 1870 by the U.S. Congress, states 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. It granted African American men the right to vote.

The 24th Amendment, ratified Jan. 23, 1964, states that the right of the citizens of the United States to vote in any primary or other election for president or vice president, for electors for president or vice president, or for Senator or Representative in Congress, shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any State by reason or failure to pay any poll tax or other tax.

The Voting Rights Act of 1965, extended in 1970, 1975, and 1982, abolished all remaining deterrents to exercising the right to vote and authorized federal supervision of voter registration when necessary. (However, in 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a key provision of the act involving federal oversight of voting rules in nine States.) 

Furthermore, the 26th Amendment, ratified July 1, 1971, states that the right of citizens of the United States who are eighteen (18) 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. 

(There is a bill (S. 2747) in the 117th Congress (2021-2022) that addresses voter registration and voting access, election integrity and security, redistricting, and campaign finances. Specifically, the bill expands voter registration (e.g., automatic and same-day registration) and voting access (e.g., vote-by-mail and early voting). It also limits removing voters from voting rolls. Also, the bill establishes Election Day as a federal holiday.) 

With your right to vote, you have the power to effect change and reforms in your government. Lawful and abiding citizens you are, your right to vote cannot be denied. Therefore, exercise your right to elect the best or most qualified candidates who will serve, lead and represent you.

Your vote matters because it’s your voice. It is a powerful voice that can make or unmake a candidate or politician a public servant. Your vote can unseat an incumbent who does not meet your expectations; it can install into public office a newcomer or challenger who is ready to work, on Day One, for the common good with his or her zeal and passion to serve the public. Your vote determines what your future city, community, country be, with the best possible candidates you have intelligently chosen.

For registered voters out there, the following are acceptable forms of valid ID you need to show to vote in Virginia (from Democracy Now): 1) Voter registration confirmation document, 2) A valid Virginia driver’s license (expired or unexpired), 3) DMV-issued ID (expired or unexpired), 4) Valid United States passport, 5) Any other identification issued by the State of Virginia, one of its political subdivisions or the United States, 6) Any valid student identification card containing a photograph of the voter and issued by any institution of higher education located in any state or territory of the United States, 7) Any valid student ID card issued by any public or private high school located in Virginia, 8) Any valid employee ID card containing a photograph of the voter and issued by an employer of the voter in the ordinary course of the employer’s business, 9) nursing home ID, 10) U.S. military ID card, 11) Tribal enrollment or other tribal ID card, 12) Virginia voter ID card, 13) Signed ID confirmation statement, 14) Copy of a current utility bill, bank statement, government check, paycheck or other government document that shows the name and address of the voter. 

Note to voters without ID card: If you are unable to provide ID, you are required to sign a statement that you are the registered voter you claim to be in order to cast a ballot. A voter who does not show one of the required forms of identification and does not complete or sign the statement shall be offered a provisional ballot. After completing the provisional ballot, you will be given written instructions from the election officials on how to submit a copy of your ID so that your vote can be counted. You will have until noon on the Friday following the election to deliver a copy of the ID to the local electoral board.

Don’t let this once-in-a while civic and patriotic duty and opportunity pass you by. Who knows, you might meet/encounter an old or new friend at the polling place.

Your vote counts! It matters for your future and the future (generation) of America. Give the election registrar and his or her team the opportunity to count and tabulate your votes. See you in the polls on Tuesday, Nov. 8! Thank you.

Chris A. Quilpa, a retired U.S. Navy veteran, lives in Suffolk and Chesapeake. Email him at chris.a.quilpa@gmail.com.