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Pocan and Ellison to Introduce Right to Vote Constitutional Amendment

Jan 22, 2015
Press Release
H.J.Res.25 would explicitly guarantee the right to vote in the Constitution

Washington, D.C. U.S. Reps. Mark Pocan (D-WI) and Keith Ellison (D-MN), today introduced H.J.Res.25 with Reps. Steve Cohen (D-TN) and Judy Chu (D-CA) and 21 House Democrats to explicitly guarantee the right to vote in the Constitution. The Pocan-Ellison Right to Vote Amendment would amend the U.S. Constitution to provide all Americans with the affirmative right to vote and protect this fundamental right.  

While most Americans believe an explicit right to vote is enshrined in our Constitution, the Constitution in fact contains no expressed guarantee of an individual’s right to vote, a point that was confirmed by the Supreme Court’s decision in Bush v. Gore. Only a constitutional amendment can ensure this right will be guaranteed in the future.

“A core principle of our democracy is the ability for citizens to participate in the election of their representatives,” said Rep. Mark Pocan. “We have seen constant attempts by some states to erode voting rights and make it harder for citizens to vote. This amendment would affirm the principle of equal participation in our democracy for every citizen. As the world’s leading democracy, we must guarantee the right to vote for all.”

“Our nation is stronger when we make it easy for Americans to participate in democracy,” Rep. Keith Ellison said.  “But states all over the country are passing laws to make it harder to vote. A guaranteed right to vote in the Constitution would go a long way towards increasing access to the ballot box for all Americans.”

“With more than 300 successful voting rights lawsuits over the last 2 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,” said Congressman Steve Cohen. “Our constitutional amendment would clearly and unequivocally guarantee the right to vote for each and every American, and would be an important step forward in the march for civil rights.”

"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. “Without a right to vote, minorities are at risk of being excluded. We saw this when women were told to keep out of government, we saw it in the Jim Crow South, and I’ve seen it in my own family’s experience with the Chinese Exclusion Act. Universal suffrage is still recent in American history, and it is dismaying to see it already under attack by status quo stalwarts who fear the diversity that makes America so great. That is why I am a proud original cosponsor of the Right to Vote Constitutional Amendment that makes it clear once and for all that citizens have a fundamental right to vote. It will put a stop to the ongoing assault on voting rights we are seeing across the nation.  Finally, the ability to take part in our elections will be equal to the ability to speak freely. 

“Today, I am honored to join in support of Congressmen Mark Pocan and Keith Ellison as they introduce legislation that would add a right to vote amendment to the U.S. Constitution,” said Reverend Jesse L. Jackson, Sr. “As our civil and human rights democratic movement continues to struggle for full equality for all Americans, it’s not obvious that there was a ‘before Selma’ dimension to our struggle for voting rights, but that there must also be a ‘beyond Selma’ dimension.”

While the right to vote is essential to our democracy, according to the Brennan Center for Justice, at least 83 restrictive bills were introduced in 29 states whose legislatures have had floor activity in 2014, including efforts to require a photo ID, make voter registration more difficult, reduce early voting opportunities, and make it harder for students to vote.


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.