Sunday, 01 March 2015 00:00

DNC Adopts Resolution Calling for 'Right-to-Vote' Amendment to the U.S. Constitution

Written by Brad Friedman | The Brad Blog

While Republican state legislatures around the nation have been working to limit access to the polls over recent years, Democrats moved a non-partisan initiative forward over the weekend to help expand --- or, at least, to help protect --- the franchise for all Americans.

At their Winter Meeting in Washington, D.C. on Saturday, the Democratic National Committee unanimously voted to adopt a resolution calling for a "Right-to-Vote" Amendment to be added to the U.S. Constitution.

According to the resolution, posted in full below, the Democrats are calling for "amending the United States Constitution to explicitly guarantee an individual's right to vote."

The resolution also calls on "state parties to work with state lawmakers and others to access the need to petition for a statewide referendum on the November 2016 general election ballot (and all states where this is possible), advocating to amend the United States Constitution to explicitly guarantee an individual's right to vote."

As the document stresses, there is currently no such explicit right stated in our nation's founding document, although several amendments bar the restriction of access to the polls based on race, sex and age. It also notes that while, in the past, the U.S. Supreme Court "has called the right to vote a fundamental right," the court's 2013 decision striking down a key element of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 has served to "undermine" that right.

"Of the 119 nations that elect their public officials using some form of democratic elections," the resolution notes, "108 have the right to vote in their constitution, but the United States is one of the 11 nations --- including Australia, the Bahamas, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belize, India, Indonesia, Nauru, Samoa, and the United Kingdom --- that does not explicitly contain a citizen's right to vote in its constitution."

"A 'right to vote' constitutional amendment applies to and should be supported by all Americans because it is (a) nonpartisan - not Democratic, Republican or independent; (b) non-ideological - not liberal or conservative; (c) non-programmatic - it does not require you to support or oppose any particular legislative program(s); and (d) non-special interest - its application is not limited to minorities, women, labor, business, seniors, lesbians and gays or any other special interest groups."

The full resolution, adopted on Saturday, February 21, 2015, at the DNC Winter Meeting, follows below...

The following Resolution will be considered by the DNC Executive Committee at its meeting in Washington, DC, on February 20, 2015.

Submitted by: Donna Brazile, DNC Vice Chair/District of Columbia
Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, DNC Chair/Florida
Christine Pelosi, California
Maria Elena Durazo, DNC Vice Chair/California
Anita Bonds, Chair, District of Columbia
Leah Daughtry, At-Large/New York
Bel Leong-Hong, At-Large/Maryland
Minyon Moore, At-Large/District of Columbia
Virgie Rollins, National Federation of Democratic Women/Michigan
Lottie Shackelford, At-Large/Arkansas
James Zogby, At-Large/District of Columbia


Resolution on a Right-to-Vote Amendment to the U.S. Constitution

WHEREAS, in a democracy, the right to vote is a moral imperative, the most fundamental legal right and is protective of all other rights; and

WHEREAS, when President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the 1965 Voting Rights Act he said, "The right to vote is the basic right, without which all others are meaningless"; and

WHEREAS, each state, except for the State of Arizona, has explicitly enshrined the right to vote with at least some level of protection in its state constitution; and

WHEREAS, nowhere in the United States Constitution is there an explicit declaration of the right to vote, which weakens protection in federal courts and undercuts state voting rights protections due to state courts often "lock stepping" rights to the level of support provided federally; and

WHEREAS, the United State Supreme Court has called the right to vote a fundamental right, this fundamental right should be explicitly guaranteed to all Americans in the U.S. Constitution; and

WHEREAS, as President Barack Obama, as a professor of constitutional law at the University of Chicago, began each of his constitutional law classes sharing with his students the surprising fact that an explicit "federal individual right to vote" is not in the U.S. Constitution; and

WHEREAS, the only reference to an individual right to vote in the original U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights is the requirement that any citizen qualified to vote for a member of a state's most "numerous house of the state legislature" is eligible to vote for Members of the House of Representatives; and

WHEREAS, the Constitution has been amended 17 times since the passage of the Bill of Rights and 7 of those amendments pertain to voting - 14th, 15th, 17th, 19th, 23rd, 24th and 26th - but none of them add the explicit, fundamental, affirmative, individual, citizenship or federal right to vote to the Constitution; and

WHEREAS, three amendments outlaw discrimination in voting, whether on the basis of race (15th) with the 1965 Voting Rights Act serving as the implementing legislation for this amendment 95 years later, sex (19th), or age (26th); and

WHEREAS, a right to vote constitutional amendment would fulfill the promise of the 15th, 19th and 26th Amendments; and

WHEREAS, of the 119 nations that elect their public officials using some form of democratic elections, 108 have the right to vote in their constitution, but the United States is one of the 11 nations - including Australia, the Bahamas, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belize, India, Indonesia, Nauru, Samoa, and the United Kingdom - that does not explicitly contain a citizen's right to vote in its constitution; and

WHEREAS, with the exception of certain federal laws such as the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, the Help America Vote Act of 2002 and the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act of 2009, the U.S. has virtually no national uniform standards for voting systems controlled by the states; and

WHEREAS, since voting is a state right, with virtually no national uniform standards, we have ended up with multiple and varied election systems in the 50 states (plus the District of Columbia), 3,143 counties (or county equivalents), and about 13,000 local voting jurisdictions that administer about 186,000 precincts, all organized and controlled and managed by local election officials with 86% of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act Preclearance objections involving local, not national or state, voting issues; and

WHEREAS, the United States Supreme Court has unfortunately undermined the right to vote in recent years, notably in its 2013 decision of Shelby County v. Holder which made the preclearance requirement ineffective and, as Freedom Rider, Selma marcher and US Congressman John Lewis so aptly stated, "struck a dagger in the heart of the Voting Rights Act"; and

WHEREAS, since 2014 at least 83 restrictive voting rights bills were introduced in 29 states, and the Brennan Center reports that 21 states have enacted restrictive voting laws since 2011, including North Carolina, Ohio, Texas, and Wisconsin, and that in Texas alone this will affect more than 600,000 adult-age citizens who do not have state-issued photo identification; and

WHEREAS, voter turnout in November 2014 represented a smaller percentage of eligible voters than in a congressional election since 1942 , voter turnout in many primary elections in 2014 was at an all-time low in more than half of states holding primaries, and voter turnout in some major cities is now in single digits; and

WHEREAS, a "right to vote" constitutional amendment applies to and should be supported by all Americans because it is (a) nonpartisan - not Democratic, Republican or independent; (b) non-ideological - not liberal or conservative; (c) non-programmatic - it does not require you to support or oppose any particular legislative program(s); and (d) non-special interest - it's application is not limited to minorities, women, labor, business, seniors, lesbians and gays or any other special interest groups;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the Democratic National Committee (DNC) supports amending the United States Constitution to explicitly guarantee an individual's right to vote; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the DNC will encourage state parties to work with state lawmakers and others to access the need to petition for a statewide referendum on the November 2016 general election ballot (and all states where this is possible), advocating to amend the United States Constitution to explicitly guarantee an individual's right to vote; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the DNC specifically supports House and Senate Joint Resolutions which would amend the United States Constitution to explicitly guarantee an individual's right to vote - e.g., such as resolution H.J. Res. 25 introduced into the 114th Congress by Congressman Mark Pocan of Wisconsin and Congressman Keith Ellison of Minnesota; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the DNC supports H.R. 885 to amend the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to revise the criteria for determining which States and political subdivisions are subject to section 4 of the Act, as introduced in the 114th Congress by Congressman James F. Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin along with 30 cosponsors, including several members of the Congressional Black Caucus; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the DNC will educate the general public on this issue by drafting and distributing this resolution in support of amending the United States Constitution to explicitly guarantee an individual's right to vote and sharing the resolution with all appropriate governmental officials; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Democratic National Committee encourages other organizations and individuals - e.g., political organizations and leaders, religious organizations and leaders, civil rights organizations and leaders, other civic organizations and leaders, business organizations and leaders, voting rights organizations and leaders, labor organizations and leaders, women's organizations and leaders, youth organizations and leaders, gay and lesbian organizations and leaders, environmental organizations and leaders - to pass organization resolutions to endorse amending the United States Constitution to explicitly guarantee an individual's right to vote; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Democratic National Committee will establish a Right to Vote Taskforce to make recommendations on changes in laws, regulations, and practices designed to improve voter participation and better uphold voting rights in local, state, and national elections and consider changes to recommend to state and federal constitutions, statutes, and regulations; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Democratic National Committee will continue to work with members of Congress and the Obama Administration to repair the Voting Rights Act of 1965; and continue to work with various Secretaries of State and other election administrators to ensure all eligible citizens have access to the ballot box across the country.

Link to original article from The BradBlog

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