In August, I was invited to a meet and greet for a congressman here in North Carolina and we were discussing how we can get more people involved and interested in issues and policy. I believe people have just taken for granted rights and privileges won for them so long ago. But there are still fights to be won. Now more than ever is the time to actively learn about issues affecting each of our lives – whether it be the economy, healthcare, education, military issues, or any of a whole slew of topics.
One issue that I think is paramount to military dependents is the right to vote. This right became particularly clear during the Congressional budget showdown in April 2011 when it seemed our spouses were not going to get paid. It was at this juncture that I became motivated to help dependents like me become more informed on political issues.
However, there have been a lot of spouses who I have spoken with around the US who say they do not vote. This is incredibly disappointing.
There are a number of issues that affect military spouses on the local level of which they may not be aware. Example: Were you aware Fort Bragg has been annexed by the City of Fayetteville? This allows Fort Bragg dependents the ability to vote in city and county elections. You just have to register where you live.
It is super easy to register to vote. I believe that if you do not exercise your right to vote then you should not complain about what is happening in the government.
Being a military spouse I understand it is a little difficult to vote. There are a lot of things you have to do, including giving up your permanent state driver’s license and registering in another state and in the county where you live in. Or maybe you aren’t registering because you own property in another state. But if you don’t register to vote, I urge you to get involved in the local issues that will affect you and/or your family – a vote to raise the sales tax, for example, or a vote to de-fund community colleges or primary education.
A lot of work went into allowing women’s suffrage, which is the right for women to vote and to run for office, as well as the economic and political reform movement aimed at extending these rights to women and without any restrictions or qualifications such as property ownership, payment of tax, or marital status. Lydia Chapin Taft was an early precursor in colonial America who was allowed to vote in three New England town meetings, beginning in 1756, at Uxbridge, Massachusetts. Following the American Revolution, women were allowed to vote in New Jersey, but no other state, from 1790 until 1807, provided they met property requirements then in place. In 1807, women were again forbidden from voting in the state.
Equal rights became the rallying cry of the early movement for women’s rights, and equal rights meant claiming access to all the prevailing definitions of freedom. In 1850, Lucy Stone organized a larger assembly with a wider focus, the National Women’s Rights Convention in Worcester, Massachusetts. Susan B. Anthony, a native of Rochester, New York, joined the cause in 1852 after reading Stone’s 1850 speech. Women’s suffrage activists pointed out that blacks had been granted the franchise and had not been included in the language of the United States Constitution’s Fourteenth and Fifteenth amendments (which gave people equal protection under the law and the right to vote regardless of their race, respectively). This, they contended, had been unjust.
There are some places in the world where women can’t vote or where voting still has conditions. In Saudi Arabia, for example, women were just granted the right to vote and run for office in certain local elections, but they still can’t drive or even go out in public without a male relative escort.
So my advice to you is this: Please get informed and get educated on the issues that impact your life and your family’s life. And if you need some encouragement, please email me at “2011ArmyMSOY [at] milspouse.com” and we can work through this together.