Do You Have a Right to Vote?If you are above the age of 18 and a citizen of the United States, you may believe you have a Constitutionally-protected right to vote. 

You would be correct, to a degree.  The 15th, 19th, and 26th Amendments to the Constitution expanded voting rights to all citizen over the age of 18.  However, unlike freedom of speech, assembly, and gun ownership, the right to vote is not explicitly stated in the Constitution.  States still have tremendous power to determine not only who can vote in federal elections, but how they can vote.  There is no nationwide framework to ensure that people who have a right to vote also have a reasonable means of doing so.  With everything from mail-in ballots to redistricting to the integrity of voting machines under recent scrutiny and attack, some voices are calling for a 28th Amendment that explicitly establishes a right to vote for citizens over the age of 18.

Is This Really Necessary?

Well, the Constitution was written to create a group of United States, not United Peoples.  Therefore, while the Constitution gives Congress the right to regulate federal elections, it gives states the power to decide how to conduct those elections.  States can use their power to shape the vote in many ways.  For example, when the 15th Amendment nullified skin color as a criteria for voting rights, states promptly found other inane “qualifiers” like the ability to guess the amount of jellybeans in a jar.

No state would attempt such blatant disenfranchisement these days, but there still many quiet and perfectly legal ways to making voting more difficult.  Because there is no explicit Constitutional right to vote, there is no legal remedy if the Postmaster General delays the delivery of ballots, or politicians redraw district maps in a fundamentally unfair way, or states do not provide enough polling booths.  An absolute right to vote would give states a legal responsibility to ensure equal access to voting.  Advocates say the effect would be to standardize voting procedures throughout the country, which would promote fairness.  Imagine if everyone had a mail-in ballot and knew it would be counted, or if Election Day were a holiday so working people could vote in person.  Changes like these just might improve the national mood.

Helping the “Little Guy”

Voting allows the “little guys” to have their say. The legal profession does this too, through advocacy that seeks justice and equality under the law.  Competent legal representation helps “little guys” stand up to powerful insurance companies.  Maybe it’s time to apply that spirit to election logistics, too.

Article by Molly Fuscher, Paralegal

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