THE RIGHT TO VOTE AMENDMENT
Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.
Most Americans believe the legal right to vote in our democracy is explicit (not just implicit) in our Constitution and laws. However, our Constitution only provides for nondiscrimination in voting on the basis of race, sex, and age in the 15th, 19th and 26th Amendments respectively. The U.S. Constitution contains no explicit right to vote!
Even though the right to vote is the supreme right in a democracy, the Supreme Court in Bush v. Gore constantly reminded lawyers there is no explicit or fundamental right to suffrage in the Constitution. Chief Justice William Rehnquist and Associate Justice Antonin Scalia besieged Gore's lawyer with inquiries premised on the assumption there is no constitutional right of suffrage in the election of a president, and state legislatures have the legal power to choose presidential electors without recourse to a popular vote. Only a Voting Rights Amendment can fix these flaws.
If Bush had lost in the Supreme Court, Florida's Republican-controlled legislature was prepared to ignore the 6 million popular votes cast in Florida and elect their own "Bush presidential electors" and send them to Congress for certification. Thus, even if all votes had been counted and Gore had won Florida's popular vote, and his electors had been sent to Congress; under our current Constitution the Florida legislature could have sent their slate of Bush electors to Congress and it would have been perfectly legal, and a necessary constitutional interpretation, for Congress to have recognized the Bush electors.
The 10th Amendment to the Constitution states: "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the State, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people." Since the word "vote" appears in the Constitution only with respect to non-discrimination, the right to vote is a "state right." Only a constitutional amendment gives every American the affirmative right to vote. Congress can pass voting rights legislation, but it can only use financial and other incentives to get states to comply.
Our "states' rights" voting system is structured to be "separate and unequal." As we saw in the 2000 election, there are 50 states, 3,067 counties, tens of thousands of cities, and many different machines and methods of voting - all "separate and unequal." There's ONLY ONE WAY to legally guarantee "the right to vote" to every American - add a Voting Rights Amendment to the Constitution!
Congressman Jesse L. Jackson, Jr. - believing in democracy and that VOTING IS A HUMAN RIGHT - has proposed to add a voting rights amendment to the U.S. Constitution based on the individual RIGHT of all Americans to vote. It was introduced in the U.S. House as H.J. Res. 28:
Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled (two-thirds of each House concurring therein), That the following article is proposed as an amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which shall be valid to all intents and purposes as part of the Constitution when ratified by the legislatures of three-fourths of the several States:
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. The right to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States, any State, or any other public or private person or entity, except that the United States or any State may establish regulations narrowly tailored to produce efficient and honest elections.
SECTION 2. Each State shall administer public elections in the State in accordance with election performance standards established by the Congress. The Congress shall reconsider such election performance standards at least once every four years to determine if higher standards should be established to reflect improvements in methods and practices regarding the administration of elections.
SECTION 3. Each State shall provide any eligible voter the opportunity to register and vote on the day of any public election.
SECTION 4. Each State and the District constituting the seat of Government of the United States shall establish and abide by rules for appointing its respective number of Electors. Such rules shall provide for the appointment of Electors on the day designated by the Congress for holding an election for President and Vice President and shall ensure that each Elector votes for the candidate for President and Vice President who received a majority of the popular vote in the State or District.
SECTION 5. The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.'
Attorney General John Ashcroft sent a letter to the National Rifle Association asserting that every American has a constitutional RIGHT TO A GUN. In it he wrote: "Let me state unequivocally my view that the text and the original intent of the Second Amendment clearly protect the right of individuals to keep and bear firearms." However, there is NO RIGHT TO VOTE in the Constitution?
If Americans had a choice between the RIGHT TO A GUN and the RIGHT TO VOTE, it would be nearly unanimous. Americans would choose the right to vote! If that is the priority of the American people, then we should have the wisdom and political will to codify it in the form of a constitutional amendment.
What are the advantages of fighting for human rights and constitutional amendments? Human rights and constitutional amendments are non-partisan (they're neither Democratic nor Republican), they're non-ideological (they're not liberal, moderate, or conservative), and they're non-programmatic (they don't require a particular means, approach or program to realize them). They're also not a "special interest."
If we pass a new voting rights amendment, the next civil rights movement will emerge fighting for congressional legislation - while also using the federal courts - to implement the Voting Rights Amendment.
WHAT CAN I DO? If you would like to help Congressman Jesse L. Jackson, Jr., put H.J. Res. 28 in the Constitution, call your congressperson at 202.225.3121 and urge them to become co-sponsors of this legislation. If you need more information, call Congressman Jackson's office at 202.225.0773.