NPR’s “Fresh Air” is good even when Teri Gross is not the interviewer.
Yesterday, Dave Davies interviewed a voting rights advocate (from NYU, Go Violets!). The advocate noted that our Constitution specifically allows each state to set its own rules for voting. It took until 1920 for the 19th amendment to specifically allow women to vote. Prior to that, it was a hodgepodge. Pioneer women in Wyoming could vote beginning ion the 1880s. “Come to Wyoming, ladies. There are Indian attacks, droughts, and blizzards, but you can vote.”
Specifically, all those Jim Crow literacy and poll tax requirements that kept Blacks away from the polls in the South stood to some extent until 1965.
After the Revolution, each state needed to write its own constitution. Ben Franklin was charged with writing Pennsylvania’s. In most states, only white, male property owners were allowed to vote. Ben removed the property owning requirement. He said, “A man who owns a jackass worth $10 has the right to vote. When the jackass dies, the man loses that right. Who then are we allowing to vote, men or jackasses?” Oh, that Ben.
Meanwhile in Massachusetts, John Adams was writing their constitution. He retained the white, male property-owning requirement. Adams said, “If we don’t, soon women, youths, and other undesirables will be demanding the vote.” Oh, that Adams. It took more than 150 years but he was correct about those pushy women, youths, and undesirables.
We call ourselves a democracy. We claim that all citizens are equal under the law. Still, we have struggled with voting rights for nearly 250 years. We need Ben Franklin in charge.
By Ed Dufton