Thirty years ago, March 1988, I was elected to the Pine Bluff City Council with A.C.O.R.N., a grassroots organization, as my springboard. My eight-point platform was:
1. More jobs
2. Better drainage
3. Basic utilities
4. Street improvements
5. Affordable housing
6. Better public safety
7. Better code enforcement
8. More representation in city government.
Thirty years later, the issues are basically the same.
However, voter apathy is worse — the last primary election proved that fact. After all of the hard work to get constitutional amendments to ensure voter equality, many citizens still don’t exercise their right to vote. The numbers are staggering.
The Fourteenth Amendment, adopted in 1868, ensured citizenships for blacks.
The Fifteenth Amendment, added in 1870, declares that states may not deny the votes to any person on the basis of “race, color, or previous condition of ‘servitude.’”
The Nineteenth Amendment, ratified by the states in 1920, gave women the right to vote.
The Twenty-Sixth Amendment guaranteed 18 year olds the right to vote. This group has the lowest voting statistics.
The Twenty-Fourth Amendment declared poll taxes illegal. Poll taxes prevented l0w income people from voting on a regular basis.
The Voting Rights Amendments illustrate that the Constitution can be changed in response to new attitudes and conditions in society. Although the Thirteenth, Fourteenth and Fifteenth amendments came about largely as a result of the Civil War, all other changes in the Constitution were made through peaceful efforts of citizens.
The United States is truly a government “by the people,” because citizens decide what will be the law of the land. Any citizen or group of citizens may propose a change in the Constitution.
Our Constitution has survived for more than two centuries because it is a “living document” that can respond to the needs of a growing and changing society despite changes in attitudes and conditions over the years. Our Constitution stands as a tribute to the framers’ foresight and their ability to plan for the future.
Presently, I am not elected to a political office; however, I do hold the “office of citizen.” I will hold this office for life, and so will other citizens. Since we will hold the office of citizen for life, let’s decide who we will elect for Congress, City Council members, mayors, presidents, governors, school board members and many other judges.
Every citizen should take responsibilities, like VOTING, seriously, because the stakes are too high for government to be a spectator sport.
In spite of low voter turnout, voters over the age of 45 have significantly out-paced that of younger voters.
In the 2016 presidential election, for example, 71 percent of Americans over 65 voted compared with 46 among 18 to 29 year olds, according to U.S. Census Bureau data.
There has been some increased energy among young voters; however, people over 65 continue to show up at polls far more than any other age group. Everyone should vote because every vote counts. You are not going to know whether a race will come down to a handful of votes until it’s too late to cast your vote.
The best policy is JUST TO VOTE! Men and women fought and died for certain rights. I marched in the rain, shine, sleet and snow for basic rights.
Irene Holcomb is a Pine Bluff City Council alderwoman emerita.