It’s almost time to vote, and this year marks some pretty important anniversaries of voting rights in our state and country. The fact that many choose not to vote would be shocking to those who came before us who were not afforded that right.

The year 2020 isn’t all bad. It marks the 150th anniversary of Utah women being the first in the nation to vote under an equal suffrage law. This year also marks the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which extended women’s voting rights throughout the United States.

It has been 55 years since the Voting Rights Act came to be, protecting voting rights of women and men of racial minorities.

When we turn 18 years of age, we all have the opportunity to vote. It’s easy to register. After that, we get to vote multiple times throughout our lives.

I admit that when I was younger, I didn’t always exercise my voting rights. Since then, I have, on more than one occasion, complained about waiting in long lines to vote. How silly that would seem to Alice Nesbitt and Elizabeth A. Taylor.

These two women worked tirelessly for voting rights in Utah during the early years of its statehood. They were determined to ensure that they and their fellow Black women could register and vote in elections. This work included organizing rallies and going door to door to campaign.

According to www.utahwomenshistory.org: “One rally of the Colored Women’s Republican Club emphasized the necessity for registering to vote, and to beware of statements made by certain registrars that colored ladies, as well as working girls, were not entitled to register. Despite this discrimination, both women persevered to actively engage in politics, especially supporting Black women and men’s efforts to register and vote.”

Emmeline B. Wells, were she here today, would be appalled to learn that some of us forget to mail in our ballots on time.

“I believe in women, especially thinking women,” Wells wrote.

I’m glad she did because of her and others, we get to put our thinking to good use and vote. Wells was the editor of the “Woman’s Exponent” periodical from 1877 to 1914. In that role, she used the power of the pen to write many articles that supported women’s voting rights.

Better Days 2020 is a non-profit organization dedicated to popularizing Utah women’s history through art, education and legislation. On the organization’s website, www.betterdays2020.com, we learn more information about those women who paved the way for fairness and equity.

Three quick facts from the site: Utah women were the first to vote in the modern nation. Utah suffragist Wells met four U.S. presidents in her advocacy work for women’s rights. Utah elected Martha Hughes Cannon, the first female state senator in the nation.

This year, I won’t complain. I won’t forget to mail my ballot in on time. I’ll remember the women and men who came before me and made it incredibly easy for me to take part in the democratic process and to take part in the city, state and country where I live.

Go to vote.utah.gov to make sure your voting information is up to date or to register. You can also track your ballot there, after mailing it. Don’t forget to vote.

Laura Giles is a long-time correspondent for the Daily Herald and a community member living in Pleasant Grove. She can be contacted at LauraCGiles@gmail.com.

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