Juliana C. California

Battling Voting Restrictions in the U.S.

It's been almost 150 years since the 15th Amendment was passed. Why are we still fighting disenfranchisement in 14 states?

Dear Madam or Mr. President,

My name is Juliana Crotta-Cox. I am a sixteen-year-old student from Los Angeles, California. In my city, a sampling of the population would be 48% Latina, 29% Caucasian, 11% Asian, 10% African-American, and 25% other. Growing up in one of the biggest melting-pots on this planet, I am shocked to see the way certain groups of citizens are treated in other states.

In theory, everything the United States fights for lies on the foundation of democracy. Democracy, the system of government where every adult member of the population should be, and is, represented equally. In the U.S., this is through elected representatives. This means that any citizen over the age of eighteen—including, but not limited to, women, men, Caucasians, Latinas, African-Americans and Muslims-- are allowed to vote in a legitimate election without coercion or fear of persecution. I’m talking about one major aspect of a functioning democracy: political participation. And yet, thousands of citizens across the country are being pressured to vote one way or the other, and are forced to not identify with their ethnicity, sexuality, gender, or religion. In fact, 14 (!) states have established new voting restrictions for the upcoming election. Do you think this epitomizes what patriots fought for in 1776? If not, what are you going to do to change these laws? Let’s stop distinguishing people by their races and religions, and instead label them as American citizens.

Although the 15th Amendment, passed in 1870, granted all races the right to vote, it wasn’t effective until almost a century later. This was due to white supremacists, who passed new laws that essentially disenfranchised African Americans, such as the poll tax and grandfather clause. The 24th Amendment, 94 years later, abolished the poll tax, but somehow, we are still struggling today to combat efforts by certain states to suppress the votes of the citizens they believe will “threaten” their power. For example, strict Voter ID laws have the potency to inhibit almost 100,000 Latina voters, who are, in actuality, entirely qualified to vote. In all cases, almost 30% of our country is trying to repress minority voters in the coming election. My question to the next president is how you will react to these laws. Do you defend them? Are you indifferent? What will you do to change these laws and include the groups that represent an important demographic in our nation? If we block and refrain major groups, how can we call ourselves the United States?

Israel Zangwill wrote, “America is…the great Melting-Pot” in 1908, and it is a term still widely used today to refer to America’s diverse population in pride and admiration. It is crucial, therefore, to enable participation in every American in this election. These types of laws, which are always legally challenged, may ultimately end up in front of the Supreme Court. Currently, there is a four-four conservative-liberal deadlock and one critical vacancy. I would urge you to appoint someone to the Supreme Court who understands the importance of this issue. It is my hope that four years from now, you, the elected President of the United States, will have done everything in your power to abolish all forms of disenfranchisement.


Juliana Crotta-Cox 

Marlborough School

Modern World History Honors Period C

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