I'm sure everyone has heard by now about Mitt Romney saying, "There are 47 percent who are with [Obama], who are dependent on government, who believe that, that they are victims, who believe that government has the responsibility to care for them. Who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing."
I think the number is probably quite a bit lower than that. Of that 47%, how many have recently become dependent on government against their will and want to get back to work? Also, how many of those have been dependent on government so long that they've become apathetic and won't bother going to vote? Either way, his comment has sparked a lot of controversy.
On September 18, 2012, at 6:08pm, a facebook page I follow called Red White Blue News.com posted the following status:
"If 47% of American's [sic] have no stake in the game but get to vote to decide how things will be.....well, lets [sic] just use one of Barry's favorite sayings....is that fair?So they are taking taxpayer money or not paying any money in but want to decide how things will be. Neil Boortz once commented that if you are on the public dollar then you cannot vote. Now before the libs go nuts what he was referring to was Welfare, Food Stamps, etc. He was not referring to SS or Medicare/Medicaid. It is truly amazing how an individual makes decisions when it is their own interest or money vs someone else's. ~rjo"
This status received comments such as, "only taxpayers should be allowed to vote. REAL taxpayers" and "The vote should be restricted to those who have skin in the game. Property owners, business owners, military veterans, and the immediate family of veterans." I finally had enough and had to comment. I said:
"Legal citizens, regardless of income or social class, should not be denied their right to vote. I'll be 43 in a few days and have been working since I was a teenager. I may not have much, but I've worked hard for what I do have. If any of you who are spouting this crap about only allowing "REAL taxpayers" to vote have a problem with the fact that my tax bracket might be lower than yours, work to change the tax structure in this country. I'll be right there with you on that one, but don't you dare look down your noses at me because I don't make as much as you! You're only showing everyone what a snob you are."
This prompted one person to direct a comment at me, saying that he "had always heard that voting was a privilege, not a right." I responded by telling him to read the Constitution. The Constitution makes four references to voting as being a "right of citizens of the United States."
Amendment 151. The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.2. The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
Amendment 191. The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
Amendment 241. The right of citizens of the United States to vote in any primary or other election for President or Vice President, for electors for President or Vice President, or for Senator or Representative in Congress, shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any State by reason of failure to pay any poll tax or other tax.2. The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
Amendment 261. The right of citizens of the United States, who are eighteen years of age or older, to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of age.2. The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
Voting is clearly a "right of citizens of the United States" according to the Constitution. This right was originally only for white males of age 21 and over, but was later extended to all males of age 21 and over on February 3, 1870 when the 15th Amendment was ratified. The right to vote was further extended to also include women of age 21 and over on August 18, 1920 when the 19th Amendment was ratified. On July 1, 1971 the legal voting age was lowered from 21 to 18 with the ratification of the 26th Amendment.
From the time the 15th Amendment extended the right to vote to include former slaves, there have been those, primarily Democrats, who have tried to work around this. One way they did this is by passing laws at state and local levels requiring a poll tax to be paid by anyone who wanted to vote. The tax was high enough that it made it hard for the poor, which included nearly all of the former slaves, to pay it. Another way they did it was to pass laws that only allowed taxpayers to vote. At that time there was no individual income tax. It wan't until the 16th Amendment was ratified on February 3, 1913 that the individual income tax came into being. Before that it was primarily land and business owners who paid taxes, which would exclude the poor and former slaves. The 24th Amendment, ratified on January 23, 1964 did away with these restrictions and guaranteed the right to vote, regardless of a citizen's income level.