Register to vote in 2015 elections

One of our most basic freedoms is the right to vote. It is fundamental to a democracy and a moral imperative as Americans.

But before a person can vote in the upcoming General Election, they must first register by established deadlines. This year in Ohio, the deadline to register is Oct. 5 — 30 days before the election.

In West Virginia, there is no statewide election in 2015, but local elections may be conducted. There are no local elections in Mason County this year.

In Gallia and Meigs counties, there are numerous township trustee, fiscal officer, village and city commission, school board and mayoral seats, along with several tax levy issues, up for grabs.

Regardless of the issues and positions, the right to vote shouldn’t be taken for granted. Over the course of our nation’s past, there have been citizens considered less equal than others in terms of being included in the American traditions of democracy. Ensuring them of their voting rights has required acts by Congress.

For example, women were able to vote thanks to passage of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. It is also known as women’s suffrage. But even then, not all women were given the equal right to vote.

Native Americans were denied U.S. citizenship until 1924. Even so, many states continued to ban them from participating in the voting process. Japanese-Americans were not granted citizenship — hence voting rights — until 1952, and it wasn’t until 1954 before the 14th Amendment’s protections of citizenship, due process and the right to vote was granted to U.S. citizens of Latino descent.

And we all know the struggles, even today, experienced by African Americans.

The Voting Rights Act, signed in 1965 by President Lyndon Johnson, put an end to many discriminatory tactics used to prevent all people from voting. Unfortunately, there have been, and always will be, people who will attempt to squelch one’s right to vote. By not at least registering to vote, we fall prey to complacency. By allowing that complacency and disillusionment of politics and politicians alike to take hold, we effectively remove the power from our own hands and “hope for the best.” Bad politicians get elected and even worse policies are enacted. One need not look any further than the state of politics and the discourse taking place today in our nation’s capital and across the U.S.

We don’t think that’s what our country’s forefathers had in mind.

If you are at least 18 years old and have not yet become a registered voter, do so today. Voting is a vitally important function of our democracy. Not only does it give you a voice in the process, but you will also be honoring the many men and women over the past 241 years who have fought and died to protect that freedom for us all.

Remember, every vote does count and your voice does matter. It’s up to you to make every election matter. Don’t waste your opportunity to make a difference.

— Michael Johnson