Many, if not most, Americans are unaware that the Constitution contains no explicit right to vote. To be sure, such a right is implicit in the Fifteenth, Nineteenth, and Twenty-Sixth amendments that deal with voting discrimination based on race, gender, and age. But the lack of an explicit right opens the door to the courts' ratifying the sweeping kinds of voter-restrictions and voter-suppression tactics that are becoming depressingly common.
An explicit constitutional right to vote would give traction to
individual Americans who are facing these tactics, and to legal cases
challenging restrictive laws. The courts have up to now said that the
concern about voter fraud—largely manufactured and exaggerated—provides
an opening for severe restrictions on voting by many groups of
Americans. That balance would have to shift in the face of an explicit
right to vote. Finally, a major national debate on this issue would
alert and educate voters to the twin realities: There is no right to
vote in the Constitution, and many political actors are trying to take
away what should be that right from many millions of Americans.
Reps. Mark Pocan, D-Wis., and Keith Ellison, D-Minn., have introduced
in Congress a constitutional amendment that would guarantee the right
to vote. It has garnered little attention and no momentum. Now is the
time to change that dynamic before more states decide to be Putinesque
with our democracy.--Norm Ornstein, The U.S. Needs a Constitutional Right to Vote