Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) endorsed a constitutional amendment enshrining the right to vote, which she said would bring some “federal muscle” to repealing voter suppression laws around the country.
She made her remarks at a town hall late Monday in Mississippi, the state that disenfranchises more people with felony convictions than any other in the United States.
Being convicted in Mississippi of any one of 22 different offenses can result in a lifetime ban on voting, and according to The Sentencing Project, as of 2016, about a full ten percent of people in Mississippi have been disenfranchised due to a previous conviction.
“How will you expand voting rights to the formerly incarcerated, ensure online voter registration, and non-excuse early voting?” an attendee asked Warren.
“I believe we need a constitutional amendment that protects the right to vote for every American citizen and to make sure that vote gets counted,” Warren said. “We need to put some federal muscle behind that and we need to repeal every one of the voter suppression laws that is out there right now.”
A “right to vote” amendment has gained traction in recent years, in part due to the 2013 Supreme Court decision that struck down part of the Voting Rights Act.
As the advocacy group Fair Vote explains on their website, enshrining the right to vote in the constitution would empower Congress to enact minimum electoral standards nationally “to guarantee a higher degree of legitimacy, inclusivity, and consistency across the nation, and give our courts the authority to keep politicians in check when they try to game the vote for partisan reasons.”
Warren added that she also supports abolishing the electoral college so that candidates would be forced to court votes in every state, not just those considered “battlegrounds.”
“The way we can make that happen is that we can have national voting and that means get rid of the electoral college,” she said to cheers and applause. “I think everybody ought to have to come and ask for your vote.”
Warren’s endorsement of a constitutional right to vote amendment comes after several months of efforts around the country on the issue of re-enfranchising people with felony convictions. The passage of Amendment 4 in Florida last year restored the right to more than a million people in the state overnight.
Now, just three states — Iowa, Kentucky, and Virginia — permanently ban people with felony convictions from voting. In January, Iowa’s Republican governor, Gov. Kim Reynolds, proposed a constitutional amendment that would restore the right in the state.
New Jersey, meanwhile, is considering legislation that would allow people on probation or parole to vote, and a recent law passed in Louisiana extended the right to vote to some people who have been on probation or parole for more than five years.
The proposal to abolish the electoral college has also gained some traction in recent months, and just last week Colorado Gov. Jared Polis (D) signed a law that would require the state’s electoral votes be assigned to the candidate that wins the national popular vote. Eleven other states and the District of Columbia have enacted similar legislation.