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Election Day: Nov. 4, 2014
Exercise Your Right to Vote
By:  Jenny Lee Smith

I turned 18 in November 2003. Primary season was right around the corner for the November 2004 elections. I quickly began volunteering on a campaign and even went to the state convention that year. I was so excited to finally be able to participate in the electoral process and have my voice heard. Going to the voting booth for the first time was something that I found to be truly amazing. As I get older, that awe-inspiring feeling dwindles as it becomes part of a routine every few years to cast our votes, not a right we reflect upon and cherish.

It is hard to believe that less than 100 years ago, I would have been prohibited from voting. Prior to 1920, Alice Paul proclaimed that America was “not a democracy” because “[t]wenty million women are denied the right to vote.” Some of the most amazing women in history, including Alice Paul and Lucy Burns, refused to be denied this right. Rather, they took their fate into their own hands. Paul and other members of the National Women’s Party picketed the White House for approximately 18 months, waving banners, seeking a right to be heard through their votes. Police grew weary of these protests and Paul and other women leaders suffered arrests and public shame and engaged in hunger strikes merely to seek a right we all often take for granted today. Ultimately, Paul’s struggles culminated in women obtaining the right to vote in 1920. Alice Paul paved the way for women like me to be active in our democratic society. The story of Alice Paul fighting for women’s suffrage is emblematic of the struggles many people have faced—or still face today—in an attempt to secure such a basic right. This year, I will remember those heroic individuals as I walk into the voting booth to cast my vote.

I likewise would encourage all of you first to use your right to vote. I don’t care if you want to vote Democratic, Republican, or Libertarian. But exercise your right to vote. People coming before us sacrificed immensely so that we would have this right. President Franklin D. Roosevelt said that “[n]obody will ever deprive the American people of the right to vote except the American people themselves and the only way they could do this is by not voting.” As young lawyers and leaders in our respective communities, we should all take advantage of our right to vote. There are pressing issues for Texas — education, water, and healthcare, just to name a few.  And our leaders can establish policy and laws that have the potential to last generations. Thus, we should each do our part and cast a vote for those who we believe will address the pressing issues for Texas in the best way possible. 

Next, I encourage you to slow down when you do exercise your right. Take a minute to reflect on how truly amazing it is that we can all walk into the election booth and cast a vote to determine who our state leaders will be. And nobody can take that away from us.

So, mark your calendar to exercise your right to vote. Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 4, with early voting occurring Monday, Oct. 20 through Friday, Oct. 31. You can find everything you need to know about when and where to vote by clicking here.

Jenny Lee Smith is an attorney with the Austin-based firm Cobb & Counsel, PLLC, a commercial litigation boutique with significant experience representing regulated industries challenging local, state, and federal regulations, responding to Texas state agency investigations, and opposing class actions.

Views and opinions expressed in eNews are those of their authors and not necessarily those of the Texas Young Lawyers Association or the State Bar of Texas.

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