Why We Need the Right to Vote Amendment

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.

The 2000 Presidential Election was the first time many Americans realized the necessity of a constitutional right to vote. The majority of the U.S. Supreme Court, in Bush v. Gore (2000), wrote, "The individual citizen has no federal constitutional right to vote for electors for the President of the United States." The U.S. is one of only 11 other democracies in the world with no affirmative right to vote enshrined in its constitution.

Because there is no right to vote in the U.S. Constitution, individual states set their own electoral policies and procedures. This leads to confusing and sometimes contradictory policies regarding ballot design, polling hours, voting equipment, voter registration requirements, and ex-felon voting rights. As a result, our electoral system is divided into 50 states, more than 3,000 counties and approximately 13,000 voting districts, all separate and unequal.

The addition of a Right to Vote Amendment to the U.S Constitution would:

  • Guarantee the right of every citizen 18 and over to vote
  • Empower Congress to set national minimum electoral standards for all states to follow
  • Provide protection against attempts to disenfranchise individual voters
  • Ensure that every vote cast is counted correctly

Many reforms are needed to solve the electoral problems we continue to experience every election cycle. The first is providing a solid foundation upon which these reforms can be made. This solid foundation is an amendment that clearly protects an affirmative right to vote for every U.S. citizen.