In a monarchy or oligarchy or dictatorship, those in power use a variety of techniques to retain power and impose their wills on those they "govern." The France of Louis IX, Nazi Germany, and today's North Korea are only three of thousands of examples from world history. The infamous city bosses of Kansas City and Omaha in the early 20th century are examples closer to home.
The good exercise of citizenship is essential in a democracy. Under kings and tyrants or city bosses, all one has to do is "keep your mouth shut and go along." In a democracy citizens have to exercise their minds, voices, and energy. Citizens must be voters, learners, thinkers, and activists. When citizens fail to do so, democracy does not work.
In America, citizenship guarantees
- being counted in the census
- full access to public education
- freedom to learn and discuss
- the ability to organize into interest groups, including political parties
- set procedures for changing the constitution and the laws
- having a rule of law, not men, with courts that both lead and follow the voices of the people
- the right to vote
Exercising our individual and collective voices as citizens will ensure, in the words of Abraham Lincoln, that "government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth."
This voting booth was made by the Douglas Manufacturing Company in Crete, Nebraska. The company was founded by William W. and Elizabeth Robb Douglas. She is credited with the idea of creating a collapsible voting booth. According to company history, she pledged $20,000 to a missionary to Tibet without knowing how she would fulfill the promise. She then had a dream where she saw an old man with a long white beard who told her to make a steel collapsible voting booth. When she woke up, she used cardboard and sewing pins to put together a prototype.
A patent was issued to the Douglases in 1906. A few were made by Dempster Mill in Beatrice. When part of the family moved to Los Angeles, a factory was started there. In 1912 a factory was built in Crete, where it still exists.
This booth was used in Cheyenne County. Accompanying materials in the crate included a booklet from the Cheyenne County Clerk, and an envelope with instructions to judges and clerks of election, addressed to Mrs. J.G. Crosby of Lorenzo, Nebraska (1926).
It is ironic that Mrs. Douglas would have to wait over a decade before she could vote in her own invention. Not until 1924 would American Indians benefit from the power found within these humble canvas walls.
Polling Place in a garage on Garfield Street in Lincoln in 1924.
This 1964 ballot was for the 1964 election, which was the first held after the 24th Amendment outlawed the poll tax and ensured all American citizens had the right to voice their opinions at the polls without cost.