It’s remarkable that our right to vote is vulnerable to the whims of lawmakers looking for new ways to rig elections in their favor. There is nothing in our constitution that specifically guarantees our right to vote.
During his State of the Union address on Tuesday, President Obama said this about voting rights.
We may go at it in campaign season, but surely we can agree that the right to vote is sacred; that it’s being denied to too many; and that, on this 50th anniversary of the great march from Selma to Montgomery and the passage of the Voting Rights Act, we can come together, Democrats and Republicans, to make voting easier for every single American,
On Thursday, U.S. Representatives Mark Pocan (D-WI) and Keith Ellison (D-MN) hope to change all that with their proposed constitutional amendment to guarantee every American’s right to vote. This isn’t the first time Representatives Pocan and Ellison have tried to make the vote a constitutionally protected right. They proposed a similar constitutional amendment in 2013.
Rep. Pocan notes on his website:
I believe a country built on the foundation of civic participation should never tolerate any politically-motivated threats to our ability to express our views at the polls. That is why I introduced legislation, the Pocan Ellison Right to Vote Amendment, which would explicitly guarantee the right to vote in the Constitution, provide all Americans the affirmative right to vote, and empower Congress to protect this right. A voting rights amendment would positively affirm our founding principle that our country is at its strongest when everyone participates.
This follows years of vote suppression in Republican controlled states and the 2013 the Supreme Court ruling that put the Voting Rights Act on life support. In that ruling, the Supreme Court called on Congress to update the preclearance formula in the VRA. Congressional Republicans resisted efforts to update the preclearance based on the illusion that the VRA has out lived its usefulness. Thirty-one states introduced or passed over 190 vote suppression laws some of which have been upheld by the Roberts Supreme Court based on a ruling by a Federal Court Judge who has since admitted, he got it wrong in that ruling.
The proposal that recognizes the vote of all Americans who are of legal voting age as a “fundamental right” presents a challenge to Republicans who have resisted efforts to revive the voting rights act and other efforts to making voting easier and more accessible to American citizens. If history is an indicator, Republicans will say one thing than do the polar opposite. It’s their m.o. be it on voting rights, opportunities for working Americans or anything else they’ve approached.
Instead of working with Democrats on actual job creation, Republicans are trying to sell the Keystone Pipeline as a jobs bill or an infrastructure bill or whatever magical phrase will garner support for the ultimate wet kiss to big oil. While the latest version of the real Mitt Romney talks about his new found concern about income inequality and Jonie Ernst gives bread bag speeches, Republicans continue to push tax cuts for the rich and increase taxes on middle and lower income Americans, a policy certain to further increase the income inequality they say they’re concerned about.
Don’t be surprised if Republicans talk about their commitment to protecting your voting rights while simultaneously voting against the Pocan-Ellison proposal and any measure that would revive the Voting Rights Act. It’s the scorpion/frog story all over again.
Image: PR Watch