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Bruce Elfant

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Constable's Notebook - October 2010

“Nobody will ever deprive the American people of the right to vote except the American people themselves and the only way they could do this is by not voting.” - Franklin Roosevelt

For the first U.S. presidential election in 1792 when George Washington was elected only white male property owners (6% of adult citizens) could legally vote. In 1856 Congress extended the right to vote to non-property owners – who were white males. The 15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1856 expanded the right to vote to former slaves and other minorities but some states enacted poll taxes and literacy laws to restrict the actual ability of many to vote. American Indians and people of Chinese descent were not considered citizens and also could not vote.

Wyoming became the first state in 1890 to allow women to vote but it was another 30 years before passage of the 19th Amendment that required all states to allow women voting rights. Native Americans were first granted the right to vote in 1947 and people of Asian ancestry were able to become citizens and vote in 1952. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 eliminated poll taxes and literacy requirements and in 1971 the voting age was lowered to 18. In the last 30 years ballots have been printed in many languages, voter registration has been made easier and “early” voting is now available for up to two weeks before the election.

Speaking of voting, the November 2nd election will impact our lives in so many ways. Who do you want to represent your interests in the next Congress, statehouse and legislature, judiciary, State Board of Education and County government? Which candidates best share your views of what the role of federal, state and local governments should be? The Austin League of Women Voters publishes a Voter Guide that is available at libraries and at www.lwvaustin.org. The Austin American Statesman is holding state candidates accountable with their Politifact columns. Every candidate has a website and many interest groups also have websites with candidate information.

The deadline to register to vote or change your address is Monday October 4th. Voter cards are available at libraries, any Tax Office location, or may be downloaded from www.sos.state.tx.us. Voters may vote at any of 25 early voting locations throughout Travis County beginning Monday, October 18th through Friday October 29th. EV locations will be published in the newspaper and may be obtained by calling 238-VOTE or at www.traviscountyelections.org. If you will be out of town during early voting or on election-day you can apply for a mail ballot application at the above phone number or website. Election-day voters must vote at the precinct where they live.

History tells us that most citizens won’t bother to vote in this election which would result in a minority deciding for the majority. Voting is a responsibility of citizenship and a key tenant of patriotism. I hope all Travis County citizens will exercise their patriotism by voting for leaders who best represent their values and beliefs. See you at the polls.



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