Right to Vote Amendment

A Basic Democratic Right

Voting is an American principle and a basic democratic right that should be protected, promoted and practiced, which is why many people are surprised to learn that the U.S. Constitution provides no explicit right to vote, leaving voting rights vulnerable to the whims of politicians, and some citizens with fewer rights than others.

Support a constitutional right to vote!

 

 

Why We Need a Constitutional Right to Vote 

Even as the rising American electorate gains momentum, new regressive laws, rulings, and maneuvers are threatening voting rights without facing the strict scrutiny that would come with a constitutional right to vote. Too often we run elections on the cheap, opening the door to fraud and abuse, while the existence of 10,000-plus jurisdictions that make their own decisions about how to run elections lead to inequities in voting rules from one place to another.

supreme court 1 brentin thumb 640xauto 7757Last year, the Supreme Court struck down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA), stripping the Justice Department of the powers it had for five decades to curb racial discrimination in voting. Congress has effectively neutered the Elections Assistance Commission. And many schools skip civic education, contributing to the decline in voter turnout in local and primary elections.

Enshrining an explicit right to vote in the Constitution would guarantee the voting rights of every citizen of voting age, ensure that every vote is counted correctly, and defend against attempts to enfranchise ineligible voters and disenfranchise eligible voters. It would empower Congress to enact minimum electoral standards to guarantee a higher degree of legitimacy, inclusivity, and consistency across the nation, and give our courts the authority to keep politicians in check when they try to game the vote for partisan reasons.

 

The Bill: House Joint Resolution 44

U.S. House Members Mark Pocan and Keith Ellison have shown great leadership in introducing House Joint Resolution 44 (H.J. Res. 44), a bill that would establish an explicit right to vote in the Constitution. Read FairVote's policy brief on the right to vote amendment. See the text of the bill below: 

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.

 

Our Work on the Right to Vote

FairVote advocates a constitutional amendment that would grant an explicit right to vote for all eligible voters. Working directly with activists, organizations and elected officials, we are building a critical mass of supporters for the right to vote. Through innovative research and strategic advocacy, we work to enact practices and policies that protect and promote the right to vote.

FairVote's Promote Our Vote Project

At the local level, FairVote rallies support for a constitutional right to vote through its Promote Our Vote Project, a pilot program most active in Maryland and Florida.  Its unique change platform works in partnerships to advance resolutions at the organizational, campus, and local level in support of an explicit right to vote in the U.S. Constitution, and concrete changes in practices and policy to ensure fair and equitable voting rights.  The program’s leadership consists of two dozen voting rights experts and advocates.

Maryland Resolutions 

Based in Maryland, FairVote’s Promote Our Vote Project has worked with local elected officials to build support for city and county right to vote resolutions.

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  • Montgomery County, Prince George’s County, and the City of  Takoma Park have each passed resolutions, calling for an explicit right to vote in the constitution and other national voting rights policy, such as the passage of the Voting Rights Amendment Act  
  • These localities have a collective population of approximately two million residents
  • Montgomery County and Takoma Park resolutions paved the way for right to vote task forces to make policy recommendations and produce reports for recent municipal elections
  • Additional Maryland cities are considering the creation of task forces focused on increasing voter turnout among minority voters

Florida Resolutions

FairVote’s Promote Our Vote Project provides services to partners in Florida, as they advance right to vote resolutions across the state.

Fundalmental right Voting

  • The University of Florida and Palm Beach State College passed right to vote resolutions through their student governments
  • These universities have a combined enrollment of over 70,000 students
  • These resolutions supported a national and state right to vote. They also sought practices and policies that improve the voting process for students
  • FairVote’s Promote Our Vote Project is working with New Majority to introduce right to vote resolutions in Miami and Jacksonville

 

Mo Rocca's Electoral Dysfunction

Electoral Dysfunction is a feature-length documentary created by a team of award-winning filmmakers that uses humor and wit to take an irreverent—but nonpartisan—look at voting in America. 

Event: Is It Time for a Right to Vote in the Constitution

What would a right to vote in the Constitution mean for voting rights struggles? How would it affect the future of the Voting Rights Act and voting rights for the people of Washington, D.C.? Congressman Pocan makes the case for an explicit right to vote in the Constitution. Discussing what the amendment may mean for enhancing a voting rights movement are Washington Correspondent for The Nation John Nichols, Advancement Project co-director Judith Browne Dianis and Color of Change executive director Rashad Robinson. Takoma Park city councilor Tim Male and FairVote's Promote Our Vote director Patricia Hart outline one strategy launched at a local level that holds promise for a realistic roadmap for reform. Mark Schmitt, Senior Fellow at the Roosevelt Institute moderates the discussion.

Voting Rights Blog

  • Not Helping America Vote: The Plight of the Un-filled Election Assistance Commission

    February 26, 2013

    Creating an active EAC is a simple positive step – and one that happens to be the law. Reform should be about systemic, enduring solutions, not just shorter lines. #wehavetofixthat

  • Who Needs to Fix That? We Do.

    January 7, 2013

    When President Barack Obama paused in his victory speech, thanking voters for waiting in long lines to vote but noting 'we have to fix that', one might have assumed that reform would come from the top.

  • New Commitment to Our Most Basic Right

    December 13, 2012

    Attorney General Holder has observed that, “too many citizens have reason to fear that their right to vote, their access to the ballot – and their ability to have their votes counted – is under threat.” Through reform of the systemic problems that plague our electoral process, we can combat this threat. We will ultimately need to think and act nationally; but now is the time for all of us to get involved in that effort in our cities and states.