Monday, November 7, 2016

Property and Voting Rights

2016.11.08 i voted

As Kate McKinnon (playing Hillary Clinton) said on Saturday Night Live last week, “We can’t tell you who to vote for, but on Tuesday, we all get a chance to choose what kind of country we want to live in.”

I, too, reflect what McKinnon said—vote for whomever you want, but by all means, go out and vote. And while you are voting, remember the history of voting rights and how voting rights historically have been tied to property ownership. Voting rights in the colonies before the American Revolution were extended only to “freeholders,” freeholders being white men who owned land worth a certain amount of money. After the American Revolution, most states continued to include a requirement that voters owned property, believing that a voter should have an “economic stake” in society before he could be trusted to vote.   (Shout out to Vermont for being in 1791 the first state to eliminate all property ownership requirements for voting.) For an interesting history on how property ownership impacted voting rights, read now-Professor Jacob Katz Cogan’s (Cincinnati) student note, The Look Within: Property, Capacity, and Suffrage in Nineteenth-Century America, 107 Yale L.J. 473 (1997).

Today, whether you own property does not impact whether you can vote for Clinton or Trump, and that is a positive change for the country. So if you haven’t already, go exercise your right to vote today and be happy you don’t have to prove how much land you own in order to cast your ballot.

Happy Election Day!  Go vote!

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