U.S. Reps. Mark Pocan of Wisconsin and Keith Ellison of Minnesota recently announced legislation to explicitly guarantee the right to vote in the Constitution.
The proposed Pocan-Ellison Right to Vote Amendment would amend the Constitution to provide all Americans the affirmative right to vote and empower Congress to protect this right, according to a news release.
“The right to vote is too important to be left unprotected,” Pocan, a Democrat, stated. “At a time when there are far too many efforts to disenfranchise Americans, a voting rights amendment would positively affirm our founding principle that our country is at its strongest when everyone participates. As the world’s leading democracy, we must demand of ourselves what we demand of others—a guaranteed right to vote for all.”
Ellison, also a Democrat, said, “Americans’ ability to elect their leaders is a backbone of our democracy and our most fundamental righ. Even though the right to vote is the most-mentioned right in the Constitution, legislatures across the country have been trying to deny that right to millions of Americans, including in my home state of Minnesota. It’s time we made it clear once and for all: every citizen in the United States has a fundamental right to vote.”
According to the Brennan Center for Justice, in 2013 more than 80 bills restricting the right to vote have been introduced in over 30 states.
The congressman said that without a constitutional provision, courts have upheld voter identification laws, burdensome registration requirements, and reduced early voting opportunities in various states across the country.
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.