Today, September 8, 2011, the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on state voting laws, in particular, laws that could be seen as suppressing voter turnout. It is great to have this hearing, and we applaud the many organizations who provided testimony to the Senate in hopes of protecting voters' rights.
Our Constitution currently reads as a document that disallows government from denying its citizens the ability to vote on the basis of race, gender and age. But government is not required to go out of its way to make sure that those who do want to vote, be supplied the means or education in order to meet the requirements to participate in the electoral process. This is why a right to vote is so necessary, and not simply amendments that prevent voters from discrimination. A uniform understanding of the federal electoral process should be established, as in H.J.R.28, a proposed constitutional amendment for the right to vote, instead of having 50 different sets of voting rules and regulations. Variations in state electoral laws often leave communities confused about voters' rights, while impacting the United States' already considerably low voter turnout.
-Here is what top advocacy organizations are telling the Senate about the right to vote:
“The right to vote is fundamental to the attainment and preservation of all these rights. It is essential to our democracy. Indeed, it is the language of our democracy. Thankfully, in securing the right to vote, the days of poll taxes, literacy tests, and brutal physical intimidation are behind us. But today’s efforts at disfranchisement, while more subtle, are no less pernicious. Rhetoric like that of Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval that ‘the right to vote is a privilege’ – a contradiction in terms if I have ever heard one – cannot be tolerated in a democracy founded on equality.”
- The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights
“Although the right to vote is widely recognized as a constitutionally-protected,
fundamental right, barriers to political participation, such as those discussed in my
testimony today, threaten to render that right meaningless. No one should have to choose between feeding one’s family and exercising the most fundamental right of our democracy. Moreover, LDF urges Congress to prioritize those efforts that are aimed at ensuring equal and full participation for all voters.”
-NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund
“Organizations, individuals and policymakers in Congress and in state legislatures must continue the fight to prevent more states from enacting these voter disfranchisement measures. This era must not go down in history as one in which the right to vote in this country took huge strides backward toward discrimination and exclusion.”
“The Lawyers’ Committee will continue to aggressively protect the right to vote for ALL voters and work to ensure the enforcement of our nation‘s voting rights laws.”
-Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law
“Systematically making it more difficult for everyone to vote is profoundly harmful to our democracy and should be of concern to all citizens, including this Subcommittee.”
-Fair Elections Legal Network
“The right to vote is the most basic of all political rights. Over the last several years, the
American public has become aware of the many inconsistencies that exist in voting systems throughout the country and which compromise the integrity of the election process.”
“Instead of creating unnecessary and discriminatory barriers to the ballot box, state governments must re-direct their resources to ensuring the right to vote for all. No right is more fundamental than the right to vote. State laws that impose new restrictions on voting, however, undermine our strong democracy by impeding access to the polls and reducing the number of Americans who vote and whose votes are counted. In order for the United States to continue as one of the world’s leading democracies, it must ensure all eligible citizens are able to register and cast their ballots. Elected officials should be seeking ways to encourage more voters, not inventing baseless excuses to deny voters the ability to cast their ballots.”
-American Civil Liberties Union
"The right to vote, particularly for racial minorities, young voters, senior citizens, the working poor
and people with disabilities, is under assault. The country has not seen this level of attempted suppression since the
days of poll taxes and literacy tests."
- Advancement Project
Bill H.J.RES.28, which seeks to establish a constitutional amendment for the right to vote, has been introduced to Congress and was referred to the House Subcommittee on the Constitution on February 28, 2011. It currently has 35 cosponsors.
Tell your Congressperson to support H.J.R. 28.
Continue to track this legislation.