Proposed Constitutional Amendment: Voting Rights

This is a fairly straightforward amendment that I’m proposing. It may seem redundant at first due to other provisions in the Constitution, but I will explain.

**Section 1. All citizens of the United States of at least eighteen years of age have the right to vote in elections.

Section 2. The right of citizens of the United States who are eighteen years of age or older to run for public office on an equal basis shall not be infringed.

Section 3. The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation. Nothing in this Article shall be construed to deny the power of States to further expand the electorate.**

With section 1 you’re probably thinking: haven’t other amendments adequetly guaranteed the right to vote? Not quite.

The 15th amendment prohibits denying the vote on the basis of race or color.

The 19th amendment prohibits denying the vote on the basis of sex.

The 24th amendment prohibits denying the vote in federal elections on the basis of a poll tax or any other tax. But it still leaves the door open for states to impose a poll tax in state elections.

A voting rights amendment is neccesary because there needs to be a clear right for everyone to vote. If you are a citizen, and you are subject to the laws of the United States and of the State you reside, you should have a say in how those laws are made. Period. There should be no possible loopholes to disenfranchise anyone (like in Florida in 2000) for political gain.

If that means we have to allow felons, the mentally retarded, and the insane an opportunity to vote, then so be it. I’d rather err on the side of letting more people vote than having less people vote. If a person is competant enough to request a ballot and fill it out in such a way that it can be validly counted, our inquiry into their mental state should end there.

Err, correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t there already a postive definition of who is allowed to vote already in the constitution? (or, failing that, in uncontested legislation directly supported threby.) If it ain’t broke, why fix it?

There’s no affirmative right for everyone to vote. There’s only a small list of reasons why it can’t be taken away. Race, Gender, and Age (if you are 18 or over).

So then, the consitution provides a loose set of criteria, which are made more specific in conventional legislation. (No conficted felons, etc.) This seems fairly normal, and I’m not personally disturbed about it.

A constitutional amendment is a pretty big hammer. In addition to invalidating any existing legislation that clarifies who may vote and who may not, you’d make the process of altering these qualifications in the future extremely difficult: you’d have to pass another amendment.

As far as I know, this isn’t even a terribly pressing issue at the moment; perhaps I’ve just not been paying attention, but have there been that many controversial cases of voter denail lately? If this is just a personal preference, you might be shooting for a conventional law here. Though, I’d bet that there are already conventional laws that say pretty much what you’re shooting for (give or take the convicted ciminals and mentally incompetent, who you yourself comment merit ‘inquiry’), making the point moot.

If such laws are not in place, feel free to propose them. Though since common law does imply them, you might find yourself on the recieving end of some odd looks.

If your point is that felons, etc should be allowed to vote, say so.

But this would do nothing to change the problems of faulty ballots, lost bags of votes, misposted poll times, etc. that were the problems in Florida 2000.

Errmm . . . yes, there have been. In 2000. Especially here in Florida. Remember the “felons list,” etc., etc.? We’ve had several recent GD threads on this.

Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr., has already introduced a Voting Rights Amendment in the House – mainly in reaction to the events of the 2000 election. From http://www.fairvote.org/articles/jessejr.htm:

Sounds good to me! Does anyone on this board have a problem with any part of that proposed amendment?

As long as we’re amending the Constitution, why not remove or change that “eighteen years of age” nonsense?

I could live with fifteen . . .

Oh, wait, you’re not talking about sexual consent, are you?

Can we also tag on a little “And the second Tuesday of November shall forthwith be declared a National Holiday” to that?

Yes.

I have no idea what an “election performance standard” is. I also do not see what will be done if states fail to meet them.

If my state fails to meet the “standard” in an election, can that election be challenged?

Are there any current laws that contradict article 3? If not, it is unnecessary and an invitation to a multitude of lawsuits over the meaning of “opportunity.”

Ditto section 4; which also takes away a right states currently have: that of splitting their electoral votes (*a la *Maine). This increases, rather than decreases the probability of popular-minority Presidents.

Just more government-centric, “we have a federal agency for that!” thinking. Bleah.

Section 3. States don’t have the ability to verify a person’s eligibility to vote if he or she can register on the day of the election. I see no reason that a person shouldn’t be required to register to vote several weeks before an election.

[QUOTE=furt]
I have no idea what an “election performance standard” is. I also do not see what will be done if states fail to meet them.

If my state fails to meet the “standard” in an election, can that election be challenged?[/furt]

Re-read the amendment – Congress would be required to set election performance standards every four years, and if your state fails to meet that standard in an election of course the election could be challenged. That is the point.

Of course. Very few states allow same-day voter registration. In fact, so far as I know, no state allows it.

Now there you have a point! And I wonder what Jackson was thinking. No I don’t, he is trying to deprive state legislatures of the power to award the state’s electoral votes on their own authority regardless of who the people voted for – as the Republican-controlled Florida legislature threatened to do in 2000. (Turned out not to be necessary.) Yes, I would change that clause to allow for proportional allocation of a state’s electoral votes, or even to require that in place of the winner-take-all rule most states follow – but, hell, we should be abolishing the Electoral College anyway, and I’m sure Jackson would agree. That would be a different amendment.

And what do you mean by “verify a person’s eligibility to vote”? Read Section 1: “All citizens of the United States, who are eighteen years of age or older, shall have the right to vote in any public election held in the jurisdiction in which the citizen resides.” That means no one is disqualified by being an ex-felon or, for that matter, a currently incarcerated felon. Which is all to the good. Let the felon-voting bar go into the garbage can with property requirements and poll taxes and literacy tests, where it belongs. The only points to be “verified” would be:

  1. Age

  2. Citizenship

  3. Residence in the jurisdiction

A driver’s license or equivalent state ID card is considered proof of age under most circumstances – why not for voting? The card in question would be required by law to state whether the holder is or is not a U.S. citizen, and the issuing agency would be required to check that before issuing the card – there are plenty of mechanisms in place for checking citizenship.

A driver’s license or ID card could also be used to prove residence. The amendment does not prescribe the length of residence, but really, is this an important sticking point? Do you really think either party would go to to the lengths of busing large numbers of people across a state line the week before election day?

There’s still a huge potential for abuse here, with absolutely zero recourse for those disenfranchised to get their vote back. What’s to stop them from reinstating the old requirement that you must own land to vote? The propertyless is not a constitutionally protected class. Millions of poor or even middle class who live in rented homes or apartments could see their vote vanish. They’d have no ability to vote the legislature that disenfranchised them out of office, since their vote is gone.

You may say it’s unlikely, and it probably is, but I see no reason to have it be even theoretically legal.

And as for felons voting, they should have the right to vote. If the law that they were convicted under was an unjust law, they should have the ability to change it. If there was a marijuana legalization measure on the ballot, those who have been hit hardest by the (arguably) unfair law by being incarcerated should have the power to vote for its repeal.

I’m comfortable with making it extremly difficult to take away voting rights. The very foundation of democracy is that it is derived from the consent of the governed.

Ok, then add a provision in the amendment to guarantee a right to have each vote accurately counted, and if the margin of error exceeds the margin of victory in any election, there has to be another election.

Heh. Voting rights first; the rest will come naturally if minors are able to fight the loss of their rights at the ballot box.

Or, “all voters shall be allowed to cast their ballots by mail”. Thanks to absentee voting, I’ve never had to take time off work for an election.

Details, details. The important thing is to establish the principle that Congress has the power and the duty to nationally standardize the voting process!

I have several problems with this, first an foremost being fraud. If you had the power to walk up register and vote on election day, what’s to keep you from going from poll to poll demanding your right to vote? Granted you could catch the wrong doer(s) afterwards of course requiring a validation of the election, I also concede that there may be some technological way to ocercome this flaw, but damn if I can see it. You’d have to have broadband ability with realtime update throughout the state in a centralized system, sorry I’m not seeing that happening.

Secondly, poll workers are generally non governmental employees, what special tools are we gonna give Grandma Poll-Worker so she can distinguish between a good ID and a fake one. Again I acknowledge that there maybe a technical way toovercome this, but see above. Thirdly susposed you just moved, what’s to keep you from doing what I outlined in my first argument.

No busing required under any of these scenarios, just a few thousand misguided individuals.

Btw, no one asked me, however I believe with the looseness of the languange in Section 2 a State making a vaild (or at least valid-seeming) arguement that barring felons rom voting accomplishes:

Just my $0.02, as I said no one asked me. Oh while we’re on the subject of felons, what about the fact nearly every state does it differently. In some you lose them period, in some they are restored automatically after the end of sentence, and at others they have to be applied for restoration. Oh and since I’m offering unsolicitied opinions, who’s gonna pay for all this?

In some countries they make every voter dip his/her thumb in indelible purple ink before voting. Doesn’t wash off for a day or two.

That’s just the point, Stuffy! The amendment would put an end to those differences! All felons could vote, even while incarcerated!

And here is the nub of the issue. Currently the constitution allows states to set their own voting standards, within certain limits. All states must have republican governments, all states have to have an 18 year minimum, all states must allow women to vote, no states can require a religious test, no state can have racial tests, and so forth.

Other than that it is up to the states. And why is this such a huge problem? What will be solved by federalizing election standards? The claim that people disenfranchised by their state standards will be disenfranchised permanently because they will never be able to vote to change those standards is ludicrous. How did women, blacks, and 18 year olds get the right to vote then? Non-voters still have the power to persuade voters that their disenfranchisment is unfair.

Right now the US constitution states that it is up to individual states to figure out how to chose a slate of electors during the presidential election. It just so happens that every state uses a statewide election to chose those electors. Why do we need a constitutional amendment to guarantee that?

If you are worried that we will see a wave of fascism that will overturn our current election laws and reinstitute the feudal system or some such, how exactly would a constituional amendment prevent that? The constituion is only effective because people agree that it is effective. If the United States has a broad based popular fascist movement they are just going to ignore the constitution and do what they like anyway, and waving around a piece of paper is just going to get you lynched by the fascist mob.