Dorothy Newby places a mail-in ballot inside a drop box outside the Southern Regional Technology and Recreation Complex in Fort Washington, Maryland, on Dec. 27, the first day of early voting in a special primary election for the Prince George's County Council's District 8 seat. (William J. Ford/The Washington Informer)

As Americans look to the midterm elections this fall, one thing that remains abundantly clear is the degree to which some lawmakers and citizens alike will go to keep “some people” from freely and easily exercising their constitutional right to vote. 

But before we get too engrossed in debates and arguments lodged at the “doorkeepers of white privilege” or other “privileged groups,” it might be prudent to take a fresh look at American history. 

When the Founding Fathers were establishing this country, while they were adamant that they wanted to secure a nation built on the premises of democracy, they also held fast to the notion that voting should not be a privilege for everyone. In fact, history reminds us that only white men who owned property were considered to have the intellectual prowess needed to objectively choose their elected leaders. 

Women were not allowed to vote. Slaves and then, former slaves, were not allowed to vote. Other distinctions would later be made between those who had the “right” to vote and those who should be and were denied the right to vote, like those convicted of a felony and sentenced to jail. 

The list has grown over time. 

And yet, America has continued to proclaim itself as a democratic society where “all men [and women?] are created equal. 

It’s clearly a paradox. And the irony we face today is just how many of our elected officials believe, or at least profess to believe, that voting is more of a privilege than a right. 

There are many things that are positive about our nation and how we treat one another. But there are also many things that illustrate our xenophobia, prejudice, bigotry and hatred for “the other.” 

It’s time that Americans stop “talking the talk” and begin to “walk the walk.” 

Voting is an essential element in American citizenship. It is the way we the people express our desires, our needs, our likes and our dislikes. And no matter what one’s race, creed, religion, gender, education or financial status, we are all Americans. 

And as American citizens, by definition, everyone should have the right to vote without facing any unnecessary, illogical hindrances. 

Aren’t we “one nation” or was that just rhetoric delivered at the Constitutional Convention in 1776 by a group of privileged, wealthy landowners? 

As Langston Hughes reminded us in his poem, “I, Too,” America must live up to its lofty promises. 

The question, however, remains whether we ever will.  

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