Do We Need A Constitutional Right To Vote?
The Constitution prohibits the government from preventing people from voting on the basis of race or gender. Poll taxes that prevent poor people from voting are also unconstitutional. A constitutional amendment has established that the age at which people may vote is 18. However, there is no place in the Constitution that states that “all citizens have the right to vote”.
Of course, the Constitution does issue a blanket ban on discrimination against any group in legal matters, and voting is a legal matter. That would seem to settle the issue.
Nonetheless, yesterday U.S. Representatives Mark Pocan and Keith Ellison introduced H.J. Res. 44, a proposed amendment to the Constitution of the USA, that would explicitly create a right to vote. Why?
The proposed amendment reads: “SECTION 1: Every citizen of the United States, who is of legal voting age, shall have the fundamental right to vote in any public election held in the jurisdiction in which the citizen resides.
SECTION 2: Congress shall have the power to enforce and implement this article by appropriate legislation.”
The second section reveals the real change that would be created by this proposed amendment. It would shift authority for making the rules about how voting takes place from state governments to the federal government. With the passage of this amendment, Congress could pass laws establishing a single, nationwide system to ensure that voting is conducted in the same way everywhere in the United States.