Democrats have came out in support of a constitutional amendment guaranteeing the right to vote. The proposed amendment has no realistic shot at passing for the foreseeable future. But the move points to an intensifying Democratic response to the wave of conservative efforts to restrict voting, and lays down a clear marker for the party’s long-term goal. “We have been having an expanding of the franchise in America. That’s the trajectory of history,” Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), who, with Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wisc.) has introduced legislation in Congress for a right-vote amendment, told msnbc in an interview. “But in recent years, folks who don’t want everybody to vote have been very busy, and they’re trying to peel back the trajectory of opportunity to vote and participate in our society.” At its winter meeting Saturday in Florida, the Democratic National Committee unanimously passed a resolution that supports “amending the United States Constitution to explicitly guarantee an individual’s right to vote.” The DNC also said it would urge state parties to push for statewide referenda backing the idea, and pledged to create a “Right to Vote Task Force” to offer ideas on how to protect voting rights. The resolution was submitted by Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the chair of the DNC, as well as Donna Brazile, a vice chair and prominent figure in the party.
The Constitution already prohibits stopping someone from voting on account of race (the 15th Amendment), sex (the 19th), and age, for those 18 and older (the 26th). It also bars the use of poll taxes or any other financial requirements (the 24th). But nowhere does it affirmatively guarantee the right to vote, and there are very few national standards for voting rules.
Since just after the disputed 2000 presidential election, a coalition of progressive academics, activists and others has been pushing for a right-to-vote amendment, and the first legislation was introduced in Congress in 2001. But in recent years, as a wave of Republican-backed voting restrictions has gone into effect, the campaign has gained momentum.