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Pocan and Ellison Announce Right to Vote Amendment

May 13, 2013
Press Release

MADISON, WI—U.S. Reps. Mark Pocan (D-WI) and Keith Ellison (D-MN) today announced legislation to explicitly guarantee the right to vote in the Constitution. The Pocan-Ellison Right to Vote Amendment would amend the Constitution to provide all Americans the affirmative right to vote and empower Congress to protect this right.  

“The right to vote is too important to be left unprotected,” said Pocan. “At a time when there are far too many efforts to disenfranchise Americans, a voting rights amendment would positively affirm our founding principle that our country is at its strongest when everyone participates. As the world’s leading democracy, we must demand of ourselves what we demand of others—a guaranteed right to vote for all.”

“Americans’ ability to elect their leaders is a backbone of our democracy and our most fundamental right,” Rep. Ellison said.  “Even though the right to vote is the most-mentioned right in the Constitution, legislatures across the country have been trying to deny that right to millions of Americans, including in my home state of Minnesota. It’s time we made it clear once and for all: every citizen in the United States has a fundamental right to vote.”

"The right to vote is the foundation of any democracy,” said Rob Richie, Executive Director of FairVote. “Adding an affirmative right to vote to the U.S. Constitution is the best way to guarantee that the government, whether at the federal, state, or local level, cannot infringe upon our individual right to vote. Building support for this amendment offers an opportunity to inspire a 21st century suffrage movement where Americans come together to protect voting rights, promote voter participation and debate suffrage expansion."

While the right to vote is essential to our democracy, many laws often infringe upon that right. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, in 2013 more than 80 bills restricting the right to vote have been introduced in over 30 states. Without a constitutional provision, courts have upheld voter identification laws, burdensome registration requirements, and reduced early voting opportunities in various states across the country.  We need a constitutional amendment to protect this most fundamental right.

The text of the amendment is below:

SECTION 1: Every citizen of the United States, who is of legal voting age, shall have the fundamental right to vote in any public election held in the jurisdiction in which the citizen resides.

SECTION 2: Congress shall have the power to enforce and implement this article by appropriate legislation.