League celebrates the rule of law today
Wednesday, April 30, 2014 10:00 PM
Today is Law Day. The League of Women Voters marks the annual celebration of Law Day by recognizing the importance of fair and impartial laws and why every vote matters to the people of Montgomery County.
For information about the League, visit the website: www.lwvmontco.org , send a message to LWV, PO Box 101 or e-mail LWVMontco@gmail.com.
Law Day, May 1, is a national day set aside to celebrate the rule of law. Law Day was created in 1958 by the American Bar Association and President Dwight D. Eisenhower. The League of Women Voters is a longtime cooperating partner. Every year, through educational programs nationwide, Leagues and other organizations help underscore how law and the legal process have contributed to the freedoms that all Americans share.
The 2014 Law Day Theme is "American Democracy and the Rule of Law: Why Every Vote Matters." The LWV believes that the rule of law depends on public trust in the courts, and the right of every citizen to vote has been a basic League principle since its origin in 1920.
The American Bar Association's President Jame R. Silkenat proclaimed in his 2014 Law Day Message, "the right to vote is the foundation of our representative democracy. It is the very essence of government by the people. When voters participate in free and fair elections, they reinforce the legitimacy of the rule of law."
The U.S. Constitution gives states the power to regulate elections and voting requirements. In the beginning, many states established voting requirements around property ownership. North Carolina was the last state to eliminate property ownership as a voting requirement in 1856.
In 1869, Congress passed the 15th Amendment to U.S. Constitution which prohibits denying citizens the right to vote "on the basis of race, color, or previous condition of servitude."
Following the end of Reconstruction, Florida created several voting requirements which caused African American male voter turnout to fall from 62 percent to 11 percent over the next four years. Other states also implemented poll taxes and/or literacy tests.
It took 72 years from the 1848 Seneca Falls first Women Rights Convention until 1920 for women to gain the right to vote when the 19th Amendment was ratified. In 1924, the Indian Citizenship Act declared all Native Americans in the United States were citizens and have the right to vote.
Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, making it illegal to discriminate on the basis of race, national origin, religion and gender in voting, public places, workplace and schools. President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act in 1965 barring direct barrier to political participation by racial and ethnic minorities. President Johnson observed, "Every American citizen must have an equal right to vote. There is no reason which can excuse the denial of that right. There is no duty which weighs more heavily on us that the duty we have to ensure that right."
The 26th Amendment in 1971 lowered the voting age to 18. The Help America Vote Act was passed in 2002 mandating modernization of outdated punch card and lever voting systems
A current issue relates to Voter ID laws currently in place in more than 30 states. These laws are being challenged, and a decision just this week invalidated the Wisconsin Voter ID law.
So on this Law Day, let us remember those who have worked so hard to assure all Americans have the right to vote. You can check your voter registration at www. IndianaVoters.com. This site will identify your polling place, who is on your ballot, county election board contact information and more.
Let each of us exercise our privilege and responsibility and be sure to vote next Tuesday in the Primary Election!