At Utah Valley University, an emphasis on human rights extends throughout the year, not only on Human Rights Day.
One fundamental right is the right to vote. UVU recently held informational events and encouraged voter registration. Posters placed around the campus recount the stories of black women who were pioneers in suffrage. A long-term display also calls attention to some voting issues in the modern day and shows milestones related to voting in the history of the United States.
The story of Audley Moore was one of those highlighted on a poster. She was born in the late 1800s in Louisiana. After hearing a speech by activist Marcus Garvey, she moved to Harlem, New York, and became a leader in the Universal Negro Improvement Association. Among her goals was to make reparations available to the descendants of slaves with compensation for the injustices they faced and the work they had done to build the United States. In 1957 and 1959, she made presentations at the United Nations on the topic.
A display in UVU’s Losee Center includes a timeline about voting rights in the U.S., including progress made through the years and conditions that still need improvement.
Women in Utah were the first in the modern United States to cast ballots when Seraph Young voted on Valentine’s Day in 1870. In the Utah State Capitol building, there is a mural depicting her casting that historic ballot.
In 1920, the 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution said, “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.”
Although women gained the right to vote on a state-by-state basis and it was extended to people of all races with the Civil Rights Act of 1964, there are some United States citizens who still are unable to vote.
The Women’s Success Center created the display, not just to call attention to women’s suffrage but to the greater issue of modern suffrage, said Whitney Sanchez, marketing and communications manager of the Women’s Success Center.
“We wanted to talk about how the fight for voting rights started when the country was founded and continues today,” she said. “People who are U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, the U.S. Virgin Islands and the Northern Mariana Islands do not have full voting rights. It is very complicated.
“Those in Puerto Rico have a member who represents them in Washington, D.C., but that member doesn’t have voting rights,” she added. “That is taxation without representation.
“The U.S. is a democratic republic and there is nothing more important than involved citizens, said Tara Ivie, senior director of UVU’s Women’s Success Center. “The right to vote is something people fight for all around the world, including in the United States. We have a responsibility to act in every election. It is the reason suffrage began and continues today.”
For the majority of people in the United States, the right to vote is taken for granted. The display was created to nudge that attitude.
“Hopefully people think about the importance of the right to vote,” Sanchez said.
The display was unveiled in November, to mark Seraph Young’s birthday. The response has been good, Sanchez said.
“From campus entities, it was really positive,” she said. “It was great to be able to see people stop and watch. It seemed positive from the students’ reaction, too. People are realizing that life has not always been simple for certain bodies of people.
“We feel passionate about this gallery. The importance of voting rights is a nonpartisan issue. We all have an obligation to participate in our government and to make our voices heard.”
Ivie said that was an important reason why the Women’s Success Center created the display.
“Elected officials impact every facet of our lives,” she said. “Only about half of eligible people vote. That means almost half of our country is not represented. I’m just not OK with that. Individual votes matter in every single election. Utah ranks 39th nationally in voter turnout, significantly below the national average. We hope this gallery encourages the UVU community to engage and vote.”