Civil rights leaders and groups are hailing legislation introduced by U.S. Reps. Mark Pocan (D-Wisc.) and Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) on Jan. 22 that would unequivocally guarantee every American’s right to vote under the U.S. Constitution, in the wake of growing attacks on that right. “This amendment would affirm the principle of equal participation in our democracy for every citizen,” Pocan said in a statement. “As the world’s leading democracy, we must guarantee the right to vote for all.” Added Ellison: “Our nation is stronger when we make it easy for Americans to participate in democracy…A guaranteed right to vote in the Constitution would go a long way towards increasing access to the ballot box for all Americans.” Contrary to popular belief, the lawmakers said, the right to vote is not enshrined in the U.S. Constitution, and the “Pocan-Ellison Right to Vote Amendment” would amend the Constitution to expressly guarantee that fundamental right.
“It is shocking that in a country dedicated to the principle of government by the people, for the people, there is no constitutionally enshrined right to vote,” said Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.), an original co-sponsor of the legislation. Chu, Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) and 21 other House Democrats joined their peers in co-sponsoring H.J.Res.25. They all said the legislation was necessary given the increasing attacks on voting rights across the country.
According to the Brennan Center for Justice, at least 83 restrictive voting bills were introduced across 29 state legislatures in 2014. Recent barriers have included restrictive photo ID laws, voter roll purges, reduction of early voting and same-day registration opportunities, making it harder for students to vote and more.
“With more than 300 successful voting rights lawsuits over the last two decades, the Supreme Court striking down critical Voting Rights Act protections, and states across the South making it harder for citizens to vote, it is clear that more must be done to protect this cornerstone of our democracy,” Cohen said.