24 May 2013

Americans do not have a constitutional right to vote

The U.S. has waged wars in Iraq and Afghanistan justified, at least in rhetoric, by the claim that people deserve the right to vote for their leaders. Most of us assume that the right to vote has long been enshrined in the U.S. Constitution. Not according to the Supreme Court. In Bush v. Gore (2000), the Court ruled that “[t]he individual citizen has no federal constitutional right to vote for electors for the President of the United States.”..

The right to vote is the foundation of any democracy. Yet most Americans do not realize that we do not have a constitutionally protected right to vote. While there are amendments to the U.S. Constitution that prohibit discrimination based on race (15th), sex (19th) and age (26th), no affirmative right to vote exists...
Two Congressmen from Minnesota and Wisconsin want to change that:
Two members of the House of Representatives, Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Wis., and Representative Keith Ellison, D-Minn., announced on May 13 that they would introduce an amendment to the federal Constitution guaranteeing the right to vote in America.  Here is their proposed amendment:
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.
There's more at the Salon source.


  1. The right to vote in a Presidential election may be a foundation of any democracy, but this isn't a democracy. This is a republic--if we can keep it.

    1. That's a false dichotomy created by a false bipartisanship.

  2. The only reason why there is no Federal right to voting is because the Constitution leaves voting and elections to the states. States can do whatever they want. Giving people a constitutional right to vote would meddle with state rights. I reckon, we'll see many conservatives fight against this constitutional amendment.

    1. Conservatism at its core is inherently undemocratic, and serves the purpose of bolstering the hierarchy, or the power of the elite so you can count on them not wanting to defend the rights of the majority of citizens. These are the same reasons that conservatives pretty much in lock-step object to expanding/changing voting days, or making it easier for citizens to vote etc. They must protect the privilege of the very few over the rights of the many.

    2. American conservatism, at its core, is based on a fear of government, especially centralized government. It seeks to protect the rights of people from the nobility and the mob.

      If you follow American conservatism to its extreme, you end up at the Articles of Confederation--a government incapable of tyrannizing its people.

  3. John F. and Nepkarel are right: the states controlled all voting rights at the time of the founding and the U.S. constitution was based on that assumption. Hence, no mention in it of individual voting rights - only of the rights of the states that were founding the U.S.

    FWIW, Neal Boortz use to make this very point regularly, just to make people think about the structure of U.S. government. I don't think he had much success with that effort.

  4. The Supreme Court decision was in reference to the people having the right to elect their electoral college members. It did not say they do not have the right to elect the president. As mentioned above, voting is handle, in most respects, by the states. If the individual had the explicit federal right to elect the president, then all presidential elections would be decided by popular vote, not electoral college. Popular vote would indeed be a more democratic method, however America is not a democracy, it is a democratic republic. If we were a democracy then there would be no Congress and all matters of State would have to be voted on by the general populace. Such as system would not work on a scale the size of the U.S. Thus, a democratic republic is the most practical form. It does have its down sides, but so do all forms of government.


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