The Right To Vote

Reading Ari Berman’s article on Republican governors’ impressive zeal at finding ways to make it harder for poor people, young people, and black people to vote reminds me that one of my pet ideas is that we ought to be pushing for an affirmative “right to vote” in the constitution. That’s a nice uncontroversial phrase that could have some real implications.

After all, the problem here is that since the United States was founded in the 18th Century it was built into our constitutional DNA that people don’t have the right to vote. Over time, legislative restrictions on the voting of white men were rolled back. Then we started adding grounds that aren’t allowed to be used to disqualify someone from voting. You can’t use race. You can’t use gender. You can’t say someone’s too young as long as they’re older than 17. You can’t stop them from voting because of a poll tax. But beyond that, you can use whatever reason you like. You could pass a law saying you’re not allowed to vote if you’re shirt’s not tucked in or that you need to register while standing on one foot. Of course nobody does that because nobody wants to. But what they can do is find ways to make it less likely that minorities, the young, and the poor will vote as long as those intentions are adequately cloaked in some pretext.

What we need is a right to vote that could clear away all this and all the voter fraud nonsense to boot. To say that an adult citizen of the United States has a presumptive right to have his say on Election Day and the government has a responsibility to ensure that they have that opportunity.