U.S. Needs Amendment to Protect Voting Rights for All, FairVote Says

Voters at the polls in Dayton, Ohio // Credit: Ty Greenlees Dayton Daily News
989
INTERACTIONS
 Voters at the polls in Dayton, Ohio // Credit: Ty Greenlees Dayton Daily News
Voters at the polls in Dayton, Ohio // Credit: Ty Greenlees Dayton Daily News

FairVote, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit and nonpartisan organization dedicated to broadening voter participation, is seeking to address one of the lasting enigmas of American political tradition, an affirmative constitutional right to vote.

Although voting is a fundamental exercise in democracy, the American tradition when it comes to suffrage has been to amend the constitution such that citizens could not be denied voting rights based on race, gender, wealth, and age with the 15th, 19th, 24th, and 26th amendments, respectively. The consequences of which have led to less universally applied legal thresholds when it comes to conditions upon one’s right to vote.

This has left the nation’s 50 states with different standards for who is eligible to vote and who isn’t, and is the impetus for “Promote Our Vote,” a project of FairVote.

Patricia Hart, project director for Promote Our Vote, argues a constitutional amendment would help encourage voter participation, while defending voter access and expanding suffrage to previously untapped voting communities:

“… [The amendment] would strengthen the claim that all citizens have to exercise their suffrage rights and it would limit the ability of federal, state, and local governments to basically infringe upon those rights… You have about 13,000 voting jurisdictions and they run their election 13,000 different ways and it’s all separate and unequal because they have different laws based on the state and municipality. What this constitutional amendment would do is it would set a minimum standard whereby all of these jurisdictions would have to abide by it.”

Representatives Keith Ellison (D-Minnesota) and Mark Pocan (D-Wisconsin) introduced House Joint Resolution 44 in May. HJ Res 44 (the first step for a next constitutional amendment) is currently in the House Subcommittee on Constitution and Civil Justice.

In addition, Hart and the Promote Our Vote team are mobilizing grassroots voters to change how their communities participate in elections. After officially launching the project in January, 6 localized task forces have been assembled to build support for and pass resolutions in favor of a constitutionally guaranteed right to vote.

Although it takes two-thirds of both houses to introduce and three quarters of the states to ratify a new amendment, Hart says the task forces have been critical ‘conversation starters.’ These have helped raise awareness for a national amendment and improve participation locally.

“Once the conversation started, people really wanted to understand how they could improve the laws in their cities to include more voters,” Hart continued. “So Takoma Park actually lowered their voting age in municipal elections to 16, and it was the first city to do so. When we first heard about [it] we were surprised… but then we did some more research and we found out that the earlier you vote the more likely you are to become a habitual voter…”

Voting under 18 has yet to gain traction outside of Takoma Park, Maryland, but the data may be on Promote Our Vote’s side:

“No research has shown that 16 and 17 year olds are neurologically less capable of grasping an issue or understanding an issue. I think a lot of times we write them off when they’re actually a lot more capable of understanding the issues that are important to them then other people who are older. What’s really interesting is we’ve seen a huge overflow of civic engagement from high schools in Takoma Park where the voting law was made.”

In addition to engaging new voting communities, the Promote Our Vote project is looking at other barriers potential voters face to participating. Tools like pre-registration in states like Florida, Hawaii, and Rhode Island have helped foster a culture of civic participation.

“The number one reason people don’t vote is because they aren’t registered,” Hart said.

Policies like repealing voter id requirements have become controversial in states like North Carolina and Ohio. Likewise, proponents argue that policies like same day registration and lax voter identification laws are ripe for voter fraud.

Hart sees things differently:

“Wanting to safeguard our elections is a completely legitimate idea, but I don’t think there’s a huge amount of evidence saying that we have widespread voter fraud… If we did have voter id nationwide then the government would need to take on the burden of making sure that every citizen has that ID.”

Promote Our Vote has been active for only 9 months and has already made headway improving civic engagement, providing logistical and educational support for their grass roots task force members.

The Independent Voter Network is dedicated to providing political analysis, unfiltered news, and rational commentary in an effort to elevate the level of our public discourse.


Learn More About IVN

Leave a Comment
  1. Joe Cucchiara In Florida,once you register to vote,you can vote in every election with your voter registration card or a photo ID with your signature on it. If you move,I think you can go on line and change your address, witch will change your poling station location. It's a one time deal to register.and it's not that complicated. Once you register to vote, you feel imppowered and look forward to voting.We should make an SOP that the states can use as a format for voter registration. Voter turn out would surely go up and people would take a lot more interest in what's going on.
  2. Chuck Shepard ONLY FOR AMERICAN CITIZENS
  3. Mary Hoover Must have VOTER ID!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Right now, our voting polls are not honest - we deserve, as Americans, to have HONEST ELCECTIONS.
  4. Mary Hoover Must have VOTER ID!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Right now, our voting polls are not honest - we deserve, as Americans, to have HONEST ELCECTIONS.
  5. David L Lamon Something else that went unnoticed is he brought thousands of Mongolians to America and set them up. Never mind they are uneducated and will ride the system further breaking us. Of course to be Democrat voters is the reason.
  6. Christopher W Roberts I am but my government has also failed me and let in many people that are not legally supposed to be here. And, there are plenty of people trying to cheat the system. You always talk about people cheating the system and the lack of fairness - well that goes for rich and poor people.
  7. Christopher W Roberts I am but my government has also failed me and let in many people that are not legally supposed to be here. And, there are plenty of people trying to cheat the system. You always talk about people cheating the system and the lack of fairness - well that goes for rich and poor people.
  8. Ann Templeton Radebaugh Everyone with legal ID only
  9. Ann Templeton Radebaugh Everyone with legal ID only
  10. Carl Bailey Is that what you want? A "show me your papers" kind of society? I thought you were for a smaller and less intrusive government.
207 comments
Joe Cucchiara
Joe Cucchiara

In Florida,once you register to vote,you can vote in every election with your voter registration card or a photo ID with your signature on it. If you move,I think you can go on line and change your address, witch will change your poling station location. It's a one time deal to register.and it's not that complicated. Once you register to vote, you feel imppowered and look forward to voting.We should make an SOP that the states can use as a format for voter registration. Voter turn out would surely go up and people would take a lot more interest in what's going on.   

Mary Hoover
Mary Hoover

Must have VOTER ID!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Right now, our voting polls are not honest - we deserve, as Americans, to have HONEST ELCECTIONS.

David L Lamon
David L Lamon

Something else that went unnoticed is he brought thousands of Mongolians to America and set them up. Never mind they are uneducated and will ride the system further breaking us. Of course to be Democrat voters is the reason.

Christopher W Roberts
Christopher W Roberts

I am but my government has also failed me and let in many people that are not legally supposed to be here. And, there are plenty of people trying to cheat the system. You always talk about people cheating the system and the lack of fairness - well that goes for rich and poor people.

Carl Bailey
Carl Bailey

Is that what you want? A "show me your papers" kind of society? I thought you were for a smaller and less intrusive government.

Vic Henke
Vic Henke

Show me an ID just like it takes to get on and airline!!

Christopher W Roberts
Christopher W Roberts

Also, regarding voter fraud - you can't say there is virtually no voter fraud. First that is simply not true. Second, if we suppose your assumption is correct, even one instance should be unacceptable as it could change the outcome of any one election for the worst anywhere in america. As a result, we should do everything to stop it. Either way your arguement is flawed.

Christopher W Roberts
Christopher W Roberts

U need a valid ID for just about everything these days. Why are you so against someone proving who they are? Is that really too much to ask? Are we that lazy as a society? More importantky how did they register to vote to begin with?

Christopher W Roberts
Christopher W Roberts

Plus you brought up race by asking me if I think it affects minority persons. That is your first arguement, and it was that of liberals and the media during the election. Racist was the next word that came out of their mouths.

Christopher W Roberts
Christopher W Roberts

How do these poor minorities get to the grocery store? They have to eat or they qould have already starved to death? How do they get to the social security office? How do they get there beer and ciggies? If they can get to these places easily, they can get to the dmv to get a license. The difference is that the dmv is not a priority and neither is voting until soemone wants to make it an issue. It is not an infringement on soemones voting rights to require them to prove who they are.

Christopher W Roberts
Christopher W Roberts

Yet again this is another issue that dems want to politicize and it goes back to race and how they are being mistreated.there is so much fraud in our voting system and everyone should want it protected!

Carl Bailey
Carl Bailey

Do you doubt it effects minorities disproportionately?

Christopher W Roberts
Christopher W Roberts

Carl Bailey - No but that is the liberal response when anyone talks about requiring IDs to vote.

Carl Bailey
Carl Bailey

Christopher W Roberts why do you say such a thing... are you?

Carl Bailey
Carl Bailey

Voting is not just a right... it is a civic duty! ...it is the backbone of Democracy for God's sake!

Bob Faunce
Bob Faunce

Independents should be allowed to vote in the primaries in KS

Tom Myddelten
Tom Myddelten

Funny, both "sides" use their position on this to indicate why they don't win.

Gregory Meyer
Gregory Meyer

If ID is required to drive and cash checks, it should definitely be required to vote. Especially since socialists have entered into American politics, now vote fraud is on the rise.

Billie Shaffer
Billie Shaffer

it is a proven fact that there is extremely little voter fraud.

John Thompson
John Thompson

what ..???..they already have this right ...its called citizenship ...you seek to allow non citizens the right to vote ..sorry ..age is only 1 determining factor ...the main one is citizenship ..if their aren't ...they don't get a right in determining our issues ..which is the way it ought to stay !!!!

Billy Nanez
Billy Nanez

Why 21? That makes no sense unless we pushed the age of adulthood to 21 as well.

Billy Nanez
Billy Nanez

Actually voting is constitutional right.

Cheryl A. Reiff
Cheryl A. Reiff

What? Isn't this the US of A? Only corporations get to vote.

William Waugh
William Waugh

Yes, and to vote against so few as one chooses.

Danny Driver
Danny Driver

I want to know who would risk going to prison just to vote twice, or vote illegally. SMDH

Dana Mar
Dana Mar

I think anyone of legal age to work should be able to vote-wouldn't that be interesting.

Jeff Pirkey
Jeff Pirkey

Milton Cramp, "just google it" is the proper response for idiots like you who want someone else to do the research for them because they are to lazy to learn for themselves.

Jeff Pirkey
Jeff Pirkey

Michael Powell, we have designated voting places at which we have to show our ID, they check our name off the list of voters, and we must sign for the ballot proving we were there. If anyone shows up at any other voting place, they are denied being able to vote and are pointed in the direction of the polling place they are assigned to. If someone goes to your voting place attempting to use your name to vote, they will be denied the vote if they can't produce the picture ID and if your name has already been marked off.

Allan Hampton
Allan Hampton

NO, the only amendment I will support is one to repeal some unconstitutional amendments. Aside the Founders secured "citizens" right to elect federal Lawmakers (Representatives) and wrote that Right in Article I, Section 2, clause 1, "The House of Representatives shall be composed of Members chosen every second Year by the People of the several States,"And the federal government is forbidden to infringe on citizens Rights (reference the Bill of Rights). Don't ask government to monkey with Rights, or anything else contrary to the Lawmakers Oath of Office (Article VI, clause 3), or the Constitution; if what is asked for is unconstitutional chances are it will be granted.

Thomas Coley
Thomas Coley

--NO. Some CRIMINALS loose their right to VOTE.

Ray Ninness
Ray Ninness

What is needed is Voter ID, a Photo ID for each and every Voter, stop the Fraud!!

Victoria Oberzan
Victoria Oberzan

Yes. The right to vote is threatened by voter ID laws. Georgia passed a law to require ID for all voters, then two years later made the ID card and driver's license harder to get by requiring a MINIMUM of four documents to establish identity. A lot of poorer people can't produce these documents.

La'Dene Bean
La'Dene Bean

without hesitation as long as the voater registration nonsense is omitted. Only racist bigots desiring to limit rights of others will insist on restrictive voter registration id's.

Mike Marcum
Mike Marcum

It's already legal. Why waste energy on something so obvious. Maybe an amendment requiring people to pass a simple politics test like identifying members of congress or founding fathers etc... I'm tired of these dumb shits that can't pick Harry Reid out of a line up yet they yell at you and swear up and down HE'S not blocking legislation in the Senate... He's a representative from Ohio!! :-( Get my drift?