|Voting: The Real American Dream
By: Elizabeth Poythress
About the Author
Looking for a non-partisan way to research candidates and ballot initiatives? The 2016 League of Women Voters Voter Guide is now available.
Most people think about the “American Dream” in terms of economic opportunity and the material well being of themselves and their families. Certainly, millions of immigrants to America have lived that dream, assimilating into our culture, working hard and making their way financially in a new world.
But for the past three years I have had the privilege of seeing the American Dream realized in a different way. Since 2013, the League of Women Voters of Georgia, along with our partner organizations, including New American Pathways, has provided to new Americans the opportunity to register to vote immediately following their being sworn in as American citizens.
On many occasions, after the naturalization ceremonies, I have seen new Americans – men and women, parents and grandparents – tear up when they realize that for the first time in their lives, they will have a voice in the government of their country. There is something immediate and tangible about the simple act of signing the registration form that forcefully brings home to these new Americans the essence of what it is to be an American – the right to vote. Such a simple act, that so many of us take for granted, is for them a profoundly life-changing event.
From the very beginning, the right to vote and the opportunity for economic success have both been part and parcel of the American dream. It says so, right there in the opening lines of our Declaration of Independence. All people are endowed with certain God-given rights – life, liberty, and the “pursuit of happiness.” And to secure these rights, governments are created and derive their just powers from the “consent of the governed” – that is, the right to vote.
Voting gives voice to the most basic beliefs and desires of people – about themselves, their families, their country, their community, and the proper roles and responsibilities of their government. When votes are cast in free, fair and accessible elections, the people know that their voice is being heard, even if “their candidate” doesn’t win or “their issue” isn’t addressed as they might wish.
A voter must get informed about the candidates and their positions on the issues. These are the people who will make decisions about taxes, education, public safety and scores of other issues that affect all our daily lives. The League of Women Voters of Georgia with our partners the Atlanta Journal Constitution and WSB-TV provides our online 2016 Voter Guide that is available at lwvga.org and ajc.com/voterguide. Other informational resources are newspapers, candidate forums/debates, radio talk shows and television.
The foundation of our democracy is every citizen’s right to vote. Voting is an essential component of living the American Dream. Your vote in every election helps assure that our democracy steadfastly remains – in the words of Abraham Lincoln – “of the People, by the People and for the People.”
All citizens who registered to vote and have not received their voter registration card in the mail from their county elections office to inform them of where to vote should check their registration at the My Voter Page.
Sample ballots, poll locations and hours are available at: the My Voter Page. You can also request an absentee ballot be sent to you on this site.
Voter ID requirements and other valuable voting tips can be found on the League of Women Voters of Georgia website: www.lwvga.org. New Americans should also take a U.S. passport or their Naturalization Certificate (along with a photo ID) with them to their polling location.
Everyone is encouraged to call (866) OUR-VOTE to report any problem they may incur at the polls.
Early voting is now underway and will continue until November 4, 2016, including Saturday, October 29th. Advance voting locations, dates and times are available at the Secretary of State’s site at this link.