Do American citizens have a constitutional right to vote in elections?
:::::::: Do you have a right to vote?
If you look to the US Constitution for a simple yes or no you won't find any such right specified.
The framers of our Constitution and Bill of Rights were the well-to-do of their time and society at that time was almost exclusively dominated by white males. In many cases women were not even permitted to own or inherit property. The idea of voting was restricted to their own elite class but it was left to the original states to define who should be permitted to vote. Naturally, the "standard" thinking of the time was that only white, male land owners should possess that right. Their original concept of "Freedom" did not extend to their wives or children or to poor or merely average citizens.
Despite the rally call "No taxation without representation" used to generate enthusiasm for the revolution, there is nothing to require that you have any representation in our government as a precondition for being taxed. This would not, of course, impact negatively on the well-to-do class, who could count on having a vote.
On the one hand the US Constitution does not explicitly grant citizens a right to vote; on the other, several subsequent amendments specified below seem to do just that.
Freed slaves (but only black males) were specifically given the right to vote in federal elections by the 15th amendment. Women were granted that right by the 19th Amendment and persons over the age of 18 were given the right by the 26th Amendment. If you are a citizen and over the age of 18 it would seem that states are prohibited from denying your right to vote; thus even the 15th and 19th Amendments are rather superfluous in practice after that last Amendment. States could permit younger persons to vote if they choose.
The Voting Rights Act of 1965 adds added enforcement to protect the voting rights of minorities.
The 14th Amendment declares: "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside."
The 17th Amendment of the Constitution requires that Representatives be chosen and Senators be elected by "the People". Can anyone be elected to office as required by the Constitution if "the People" don't have a right to cast their votes?
Exactly who are "the People"? Are they all citizens or just a select few based on some standard of wealth, status, and gender, as it was in the early years?
In each of the above amendments the people have been defined. Any citizen over the age of 18 regardless of gender, race, religion, or national origin. That is pretty much anyone other than a percentage who have forfeited that right, having been convicted of a crime in certain states.
Enter state voter-ID laws, almost exclusively written and passed by the right in a thinly disguised way to limit voting by the lower middle-class, poor, and minorities. The alleged purpose is to prevent voter fraud at the polls, an excuse totally unjustified by any facts.
Voter fraud does exist but it is vary very rare and has never been known to affect the outcome of any election in the United States.
Of 197 million votes cast between 2002 and 2005, only 40 voters were indicted for voter fraud, amounting to only .00000013 percent of the votes. In ten+ years Texas has convicted a total of 51 people of voter fraud but of those only 4 were for voter impersonation... the only kind of fraud an ID would prevent. Four in ten years is not a threat to democracy or election integrity, particularly when the "solution" would be to deny the legitimate vote to millions.
Talk about throwing the baby out with the bath water.
The National Voter Registration Act (42USC -- Chap 20) requires states to use a uniform voter-registration form for federal elections. The Election Assistance Commission (EAC) requires only that an applicant aver, under penalty of perjury, that he is a citizen.
The stated intention of the legislation was to encourage greater access to voter registration for the citizens who needed further assistance registering to vote. I am not aware of any voter-ID law that includes any added assistance to register.
In this same act, Congress also found (Sec. 1973Gg) that:
- the right of citizens of the United States to vote is a fundamental right;
- it is the duty of the federal, state, and local governments to promote the exercise of that right;
- discriminatory and unfair registration laws and procedures can have a direct and damaging effect on voter participation in elections for federal office and disproportionately harm voter participation by various groups, including racial minorities.
I think it is pretty clear that we do have a constitutional right to vote, at least in federal elections for president and members of the US Congress. There may be a less well-defined RIGHT to vote in state and local elections or for regional issues such as bonds, school boards, county commissioners, and so on.
If the right is constitutional and the same Constitution states that a citizen cannot be denied a right absent individual due process, can states demand their citizens to bear the burden of proof of their citizenship as a condition before they exercise a constitutional right?
In other words, if you or I present ourselves at a poling place without an ID to prove citizenship, should your state have a right to summarily deny you your right to vote without any duty to prove you are not a citizen eligible to vote? Being a citizen is automatic if you are born here and as such you are automatically afforded the full protection of the Constitution absent loss subject to due process.
I repeat what I stated above: The 14th Amendment declares: "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside."
It is my humble opinion that one part of this should be a direct violation of the 24th Amendment as a poll tax unless states waive all fees necessary to obtain the credentials. Perhaps someone should demand a free state ID or driver's license in any state that requires same in order to exercise their right to vote. Should driver's licenses and IDs be required to be free for all voting adults in any state that requires them to vote?
Any patriotic citizen should be expressing outrage at any political party or lawmaker who advocates or votes for any voter-ID law. These laws are designed for one purpose only, political advantage for one party.
The notion that it should even be considered reasonable to potentially deny the right to vote to tens of thousands, perhaps millions of citizens, in order to prevent 10 fraudulent votes, nation-wide, per election (that is two-tenths of one vote per state), should make you red with rage.
These voter-ID laws are, themselves, what threaten the integrity of our elections.
How often have we seen these same right-leaning politicians defend guns, saying the government cannot infringe on the right to own, while taking direct action to infringe on those same citizen's rights to vote? Would seem they like to pick and choose which parts of the Constitution are valid depending upon their agenda at the time.
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