The right to vote has been fought over since the very beginning of this county. Using qualifiers like property, sex, color, and now even ID, those with access to political power have found plenty of reasons to restrict the participation of those without it. Over the 228 years since the delegates to the Constitutional Convention put their signatures on the Constitution of the United States, “the people” of this country have been pushing back to be included in the promises of democracy. In 2004, the U.S. Congress declared each September 17 to be Constitution Day in commemoration of the document’s signing. On this day, all publicly funded schools are now required to feature educational programming about the Constitution. Now this date gives everyone a chance to reflect on this country’s founding promises, and look forward to coming elections for signs about its future. By the People Government “by the people” has always been an elusive ideal. When teachers talk with their classes about the Constitution, let’s hope that tales about freedom and more equitable governance are enriched by parallel stories of the struggle to become part of those ideals.
Make Constitution Day mean something by sharing our new and improved Vote Center.
We should be careful of simplifying lessons into neat steps on a clear path toward justice. The passage of the 19th Amendment is a perfect example of this. While this extended suffrage to women, it wasn’t until the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1964 that the vote would be meaningfully extended to women of color. And barriers to political participation have by no means disappeared, as the Supreme Court decision in Shelby County v. Holder opened the door to a new era of restrictions on voting rights. What To Do Constitution Day provides an opportunity to reflect on the promises of democracy. That reflection should encourage us to see who is included those promises, and who continues to be left out. Most of all, it should empower each and every one of us to take action and exercise our constitutional right to vote. In celebration of Constitution Day, we’ve improved our online Vote Center. This one-stop resource answers all your questions about voting rights. You’ll find useful information to help you cast your ballot in the November election.