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Election Days are Battlegrounds

May 4, 2016
Plain English Version
A woman registers her name to cast her ballot during Pennsylvania's primary election on April 26, 2016. Photo credit EDUARDO MUNOZ ALVAREZ/AFP/Getty Images

A woman registers her name to cast her ballot during Pennsylvania’s primary election on April 26, 2016. Photo credit EDUARDO MUNOZ ALVAREZ/AFP/Getty Images

Election days are exciting. Each side tries to get its supporters out to the polls. They do their best to keep the vote of the other side as low as they can.

It is not always a fair contest. For example, in the early days of the nation, women did not have the right to vote. The Nineteenth Amendment passed in 1920. It gave women the right to vote. That right came less than one hundred years ago.

States enact their own voter laws. In the past, some states said you had to own property to vote. Other states charged voters a “poll tax.” The usual purpose of such restrictions was to suppress the votes of black people. These rules fell away over the last century.

Some states, most of which are in the South, now are passing voter ID laws. These laws say voters must produce a photo ID. The purpose of the laws is to prevent voter fraud.

The idea is that a person would do something criminal (use a fake ID) to vote. This does not make sense to anyone. There is almost no evidence that people do it. Voter fraud almost always is the work of politicians.

A famous case of voter fraud is the election of President John F. Kennedy in 1960. He had to win Illinois to beat Richard Nixon. The key to winning Illinois was Cook County. The City of Chicago is in Cook County. Richard Daley was the Chicago mayor and a supporter of Kennedy. There were votes counted for people who were not alive. It was the “graveyard” vote. Kennedy won Cook County and the presidency. Mr. Nixon did not contest the outcome of the election. He feared it would split the country.

The voter ID laws do not come near the obstacles that black voters faced and overcame over the past years. Still, many people either do not have a photo ID or do not know what can pass as a valid ID. Advocates say such laws are wrong. The courts should overturn them.

In the most important election of our country, white male voters elected Abraham Lincoln. At that time, neither blacks nor women had the right to vote. In this upcoming election, many white male voters will vote Republican. It is many years after Lincoln. Women and minorities are likely to determine the outcome of the coming election.

Source: The New York Times May 2, 2016

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