July 1st is the day we celebrate the passing of The 26th Amendment which lowered the voting age from 21 to 18, allowing millions of young people to participate actively in the democratic process and to have a powerful voice in shaping the future of our country.
The 26th Amendment was passed faster than any Constitutional amendment in history. A group of dedicated students and activists led the charge that forever changed the history of America. The Senate voted 94-0 to pass the resolution, and 13 days later, on March 23, 1971, the House voted in favor. Within four months, the amendment was ratified by the required three-fourths of state legislatures – and signed into law on July 1.
Millions of young American were then able to vote in the 1972 Presidential election. I thought what better way to celebrate than to tell the story of MY first time voting, which occurred not long after I turned 18 myself.
I was raised in a politically minded household. My grandma was old school and as each one of the grandkids approached voting age she would always inquire as to the status of our voter registration. Especially when I, being the oldest girl, neared my 18th birthday. She felt that though it was everyone’s’ duty to vote, it was especially important for young women.
It still is.
So, of course, I registered when I was 17 and lucky for me the first big election after my 18th birthday was President Clinton’s reelection. A very exciting election to be part of. Being born and raised a democrat my choice was obvious. As a young adult I was pretty happy with the direction the country was headed. I was happy with the job he was doing as president and I was happy to be casting a vote for him.
But as I stepped into my old junior high school gymnasium that crisp November morning to vote in my first election, I asked myself does my vote REALLY matter? Will my lowly little 18-year-old girl voice REALLY make a difference? As it turned out, it did.
The next day President Clinton won four more years in the White House. Also that next day my grandma sent me a newspaper article she’d clipped from the San Francisco chronicle, titled “Women Made the Difference.”
It stated that for the first time since women had won the right to vote they had elected the President of the United States. President Clinton did not win the male vote that year he won the female vote. And since women had the majority of votes that year, it was women who decided the election.
So my first election was also a pretty big first for the young Americans AND the women’s suffrage movement as well. I’m always proud to have been a part of that moment and I still have that article in my hope chest today.
My daughter has been going with me to vote since she was old enough to walk. I like to instill in her the same respect for the voting process that my mother and grandmother instilled in me. And the knowledge that women and young Americans had to fight for the right to vote and no matter what political party she grows up to be affiliated with it will be her duty to cast her vote in every election.
Today is a great opportunity to talk to your daughters and sons about how important their right to vote is!
How old were you when you voted for the first time? Tell us in the comments below or post a few of your own tips on our Facebook page!