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CITIZEN COLUMN: Our greatest right as US citizens
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CITIZEN COLUMN: Our greatest right as US citizens

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Since my previous column, many topics have made the national news: the teaching of critical race theory, rising crime statistics in many of the major cities in the United States, defund the police, the collapse of the condo building in Surfside Florida with a catastrophic loss of life and an article that caught my attention related to Texas democratic legislators.

On July 12, 51 of 67 Democratic legislators chartered a private plane with a case of beer on board to take them to Washington, DC. They decided this move would block the voting on a voting restriction bill in the Special Texas legislative session.

Instead of staying in Texas and discussing the problems with the bill, their departure would not allow the bill to go forward because the quorum could not be met. Now three of the legislators have COVID and cannot leave for another 10 days. Are the citizens of Texas paying their salaries and their travel expenses? In essence, this is a strike. I can remember when my father went on strike, there was no one paying his salary or living expenses.

In my opinion, one of our greatest rights as citizens of the United States of America is our right to vote. Every citizen over the age of 18 has the right to vote in federal elections. Recently, how those elections should be run has been flooding the news. Misinformation continues to flood the news, and we should not be surprised by the lack of truths. Is the unwillingness to publish the true facts a result of media ignorance or political bias?

In the United States, no one is required by law to vote in any local, state or federal election. According to the U.S. Constitution, voting is a right and a privilege. Many constitutional amendments have been ratified since the first election. However, none of them made voting mandatory. In 1845, the U.S. Congress made the federal election date to be the Tuesday following the first Monday in November.

There have been six amendments to the U.S. Constitution concerning voting:

The 12th Amendment in 1804 established the Electoral College and recognized the existence of political parties.

The 15th Amendment in 1870 set the voting age at 21 years and older and protected any U.S. citizen from being denied the right to vote based on race, color or former slave status.

The 17th Amendment in 1913 said U.S. senators will be elected by popular vote as opposed to appointed by the state legislature.

The 19th Amendment in 1920, also known as the Women’s Sufferage Clause, granted the right to vote to women.

The 24th Amendment in 1964 eliminated the poll tax.

Finally, the 26th Amendment in 1971 changed the voting age to 18 and older.

There are many flaws in the current system. One is the mail-in ballot. Was the mail-in ballot actually filled out by a registered voter? Another potential flaw is early voting. Was that voter actually alive on Election Day in November? How many ballots were cast before Election Day, and of those ballots how many were in fact totally valid? In some states, a federally recognized photo ID is required in order to vote while in others no ID is required. Should not the potential voter be required to prove they are in fact the individual listed on the voter role?

I admit my personal experience at the polling place, as an observer, is very limited.

I do recall a few years ago when a man showed up to vote at a polling site and discovered he was not on the list of registered voters. He showed his driver’s license as his identification. The picture on his license matched his face, and he could not understand why he was not on the voters’ roster. Upon further examination of his license, it was revealed what was potentially the issue. According to his license, it was issued to his address in Columbia more than six years prior to Election Day. Maybe that was why he was no longer on the voting roles in Florence!

In another case, a woman indicated she had no photo identification, but she did have her State of South Carolina Voter Registration Notification card. She was allowed to vote. What made this interesting was she drove her car to the polling place and after voting drove away in it evidently with no driver’s license.

Is now the time for the federal government to step forward and take action to ensure that federal elections in every state are held under the same rules? Much news and political attention has been paid to the Georgia voting requirements and the proposed changes to the Texas voting laws. Should not the voting laws for voting in a federal election be the same in each state?

Some of the issues being attacked concern “early voting” and “mail in ballots” and the requirement for having a photo ID that confirms that you are in fact the registered voter. In my mind, in-person voting should be the standard. Voters should show up at their polling place on the date in November, show their photo identification, cast their vote and go home and celebrate the greatest right that they have just exercised.

Citizen Columnist Thomas J. Sheehy retired from the U.S. Army following 26 years on active duty. He and his wife of 50 years moved to Florence in 2009. They have two sons and four wonderful grandchildren. Contact Sheehy at citizencolumnist@florencenews.com.

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