Friday, Oct. 31, 2008 | 2:05 a.m.
Today is Nevada Day, the state’s annual holiday in recognition of Nevada’s admission into the United States of America in 1864, a perilous time for our country as the Civil War was still being fought.
Nevada is one of only a few states that celebrate their entrance into the Union, and it is good that Nevada does. It provides citizens a chance to acknowledge and appreciate the freedom and responsibilities that come with being a citizen of the United States.
Nevada Day is particularly noteworthy this year because it falls on the last day of early voting, and being able to cast a ballot is a cherished right in any democracy.
Voting hasn’t always been easy, as John Stephens II can attest. As Mike Trask reported in Thursday’s Las Vegas Sun, Stephens, who is black, carried two receipts with him when he voted last week at the Pearson Community Center in North Las Vegas. One had belonged to his aunt, who paid a poll tax of $1.50 in Texas in 1926 for the right to vote. Another was from 1964, when he paid the Texas poll tax. Poll taxes, designed to keep minorities from voting, were outlawed by the 24th Amendment in 1964, ensuring the right to vote for all people.
This promises to be an incredibly important year to vote.
Nevadans will elect members of the state Legislature who will have to make tough decisions next year during these lean budgetary times. In addition to races at the county level, two seats on the state Supreme Court are being contested, along with more than 20 judicial races in Southern Nevada alone.
The nation will elect a new president and elect members of Congress who will have to grapple with an economy in a dangerous slump and a disastrous war in Iraq.
In national terms, the state has become an electoral battleground. Nevada has been noted for the independence and mix of its voters. Some experts see Nevada as part of the new heartland of America, a microcosm of the nation.
The state has found a place in the national spotlight, as shown by the early presidential caucus this year and the prominence of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
Because the presidential campaign’s outcome is very much in doubt, a handful of tossup states such as Nevada are being aggressively courted by both the Democratic and Republican tickets. Democratic nominee Sen. Barack Obama is scheduled to be in Henderson on Saturday, his 20th visit to the state. The Republican ticket of Sen. John McCain and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin is due in Nevada on Monday, the day before Election Day.
With early voting and absentee ballots, there should be no excuse for missing the election.
If you haven’t cast a ballot, the best way to celebrate Nevada Day is to take your duty as a citizen seriously by taking the time to vote, either today or Tuesday.