The words Honestly Counted come from President Rutherford B. Hayes. Across speeches and diary entries, Hayes would repeat, "It is the right of every citizen, possessing the qualifications prescribed by law, to cast one unintimidated ballot, and to have his ballot honestly counted."
Hayes ascended to the presidency in the aftermath of the Civil War. The federal government’s efforts toward Reconstruction had been derailed by the Southern Democrats - the vestige of the Confederacy. Their influence at the federal level had increased through the elimination of the three-fifths compromise, but “Whole districts have been disenfranchised by the use of the shotgun and the bludgeon” [McKinley, Speeches]. The voices of the newly freed African Americans had been silenced through violence. It was their ballot that Hayes insisted should be honestly counted.
To me, those words and Hayes’ actions encapsulate the energy and devotion we must all bring to the country's founding principle: We the people.
When James Madison wrote We the people into the Constitution, he proposed something considered impossible: the idea that a country could be governed by its citizens. It would be a government, as is said, by the people and for the people.
Being an American isn’t just something that you are. It’s something that you do. The founding ideals of our country demand it. Our votes and our expression, whether in advocacy or in protest, guide our effort to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.
The citizens McKinley portrayed in his speeches at the time were “oppressed, bullied, and terrorized, they stand mute and dumb in the exercise of citizenship, politically paralyzed.” Today, we see those mute and dumb in their exercise of citizenship through inequitable gerrymandering, polling stations with hours-long wait-times, the naked refusal to accept the conditions of a pandemic, and countless other efforts to undermine the right of every citizen to cast on unintimidated ballot, honestly counted.
It's why I started www.honestlycounted.com. The first step was an open letter to Mitch McConnell that places his vision for America clearly within what Lincoln said of the Confederate constitution: "this deliberate pressing out of view, the rights of men, and the authority of the people." But I have since added calls to action for voter registration, mail in voting, campaign support for Biden/Harris, and other ways to get involved.
Being American is something you do.