How States Can Protect the Right to Vote

Posted by Claire Daviss on March 25, 2015
From the East Coast to the West Coast, many are thinking about the right to vote. The conversation among political scientists and the actions of policy practitioners reflects an important side of the public dialogue: how can states protect the right to vote? 

On the East Coast, one political scientist theorized on how to protect the right to vote. Theodore S. Arrington, Professor Emeritus of Political Science at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, presented his ideas in an article for the Scholars Strategy Network. He writes, 
"By now, Americans universally expect that all adult citizens have the right to vote. But an effective democracy must also ensure that votes are fairly cast and accurately counted. Ballot security mesaures can sometimes conflict with assuring that everyone has the right to vote."
In response to this conflict, Professor Arrington suggests that states take steps to protect proactively the right to vote. If states choose to use photo identification laws, he says, 
"there are ways to implement such rules without harming anyone's legitimate right to vote or discouraging turnout. Laws can allow for the use of a wide range of types of photo identification, as the states of Georgia and New Hampshire already do."
On the West Coast, one state took proactive steps to protect the right to vote by making voter registration automatic. On Monday, March 16, Oregon Governor Kate Brown signed a new law that will automatically register all qualified citizens any time they interact with the DMV. 

FairVote supports adopting a Right to Vote Amendment in the Constitution. Many do not realize that the "right to vote" does not appear in the Constitution. An explicit "right to vote" in the Constitution would reflect national values, put the burden on states to protect the right to vote, and place strict scrutiny on any laws that could impede citizens exercising their right. Several national organizations and major cities, including Pittsburgh and Atlanta, have passed resolutions endorsing this plan.

Read more about the right to vote and FairVote's work on our website.


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