History in the Headlines: Whose Vote Counts?

Reflection by Thea McKay ’20, a history and theater arts double major

In the wake of 2018 midterm elections, the History in the Headlines event “Whose Vote Counts?” on November 14 was a much-needed reminder that while most of us here at LMU have the privilege of voting, many others in our country and even our community have systematically been denied this Constitutional right.

Facilitated by history professor Constance Chen, the roundtable discussion featured presentations by Professors Margarita Ochoa and Cara Anzilotti from the History Department, professor Andrew Dilts from the Political Science Department, and professor Marne Campbell from the African American Studies Department. It put faculty and students in a dialogue that examined the historical and current disenfranchisement of many groups in America. Professor Dilts discussed the recent historic vote in Florida to grant voting rights to former convicted criminals, but reminded us that it only grants the right to vote to people outside of jail, confirming the fact that the right to vote is still something that can be taken away from our citizens. Professor Campbell chronicled the long and arduous struggle of African Americans to gain the right to vote, as well as the issues they still face. In many states, limitations can include the lack of money and travel limitations needed to obtain an ID required by some states in order to vote, which keeps them disenfranchised today. Professor Anzilotti examined the fight for women’s suffrage and the ways in which white women today betray this battle by choosing to support candidates who uphold white supremacy. Professor Ochoa explored Puerto Rican disenfranchisement and questioned whether Puerto Ricans, who do not have the right to vote, are truly citizens, and if a voice is truly a voice without a vote.

All of the speakers encouraged attendees to closely examine how many people in our country are currently denied the right to vote in a myriad of ways and to question whether we truly live in a representative democracy. It was a riveting and eye-opening discussion, with a very engaged question and answer portion, which showed that many students in the LMU community are striving to be politically conscious, socially aware, and are eager and grateful to use their power to vote.