Let your voice be heard – Vote!

OPINION — Voting is your chance to stand up for what matters most to you and to have an impact on the issues that affect you, your community, your family and your future.

Election Day 2020 is Tuesday, but early voting began more than a month ago in South Dakota and states across the country.

As of Friday in South Dakota, 193,117 people had returned their absentee ballot via mail. And another 76,127 had voted absentee in person at a county auditor’s office.

That’s nearly 46.5% of the state’s 578,193 registered voters.

Voting is an opportunity for change. The leaders you elect make decisions that affect your daily life. With your vote, you can support the candidates and ballot measures that you believe can help your community, state, and even the nation for the greater good.

Because the Constitution did not specifically say who could vote, this question was largely left to the states into the 1800s. Since that time various groups have fought hard for that right to vote namely white women, black men and women, American Indians and other disadvantaged groups.

1789: Property-owning or tax paying white males are given the Right to Vote (roughly 6% of the poplulation)

1790: White men born outside of the USA are allowed to become citizens, with the Right to Vote

1869: Wyoming becomes the first state to give Women the Right to Vote

1870: Non-white men and freed male slaves are guaranteed the Right to Vote

1920: Women are guaranteed the Right to Vote in all US States by the Nineteenth Amendment

1924: All American Indians are granted citizenship, and the RIght to Vote. Even so, some western states still deny them the right until 1948.

1961: Residents of Washington D.C. are granted the Right to Vote.

1971: Adults age 18-21 are granted the Right to Vote. Mainly due to those serving and dying for their country in the Vietnam War from the age of 18.

1986: US Military, regardless of where they are stationed, and other US citizens living oversees are granted the Right to Vote.

People have protested, fought and died for your right to vote. Never take that right for granted. Be informed and vote.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment, guaranteeing and protecting women’s constitutional right to vote.

With other amendments removing the previous barriers to voting (particularly sex and race), theoretically all Americans over the age of 21 could vote by the mid 1960s. Later, in 1971, the American voting age was lowered to 18, building on the idea that if a person was old enough to serve their country in the military, they should be allowed to vote.

Participating in elections is one of the key freedoms of American life. People in countries around the world do not have the same freedom, nor did many Americans in centuries past. No matter what you believe or whom you support, it is important to inform yourself, and exercise your right to vote.

Informed voting is a patriotic duty.

No matter what the outcome, whether your candidate wins or loses, we can all feel good about being part of the process. It is critical that we do not let the outcome of one election change who we are at our core or how we treat our fellow Americans. Differing views and a healthy back and forth discussion ultimately bring about better solutions. That is the beauty of Democracy, we can passionately disagree and still resolve to come together in the end for the greater good of the United States of America.

If you’re concerned about coronavirus exposure at your polling place, you still have time to vote absentee at your auditor’s office on Monday. Check with your auditor’s office for hours.

Then, on Tuesday, polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Absentee ballots may be delivered in person to the Auditor’s office up until 7 p.m. on Tuesday.

When you choose not to vote, you give up your voice, and allow someone else to make the decision for you. Inform yourself on the candidate and the issues. Make a plan. Make your voice heard. Vote.

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