You have no right to vote
By Garrett Epps
Sept. 21, 2006 | Last week, a Missouri judge reminded the state Legislature that citizens of the state have a right to vote. And because it is a right, not a privilege granted by the powerful, Missourians can cast their ballots this November without having to meet identification requirements that seemed designed to make it harder for certain people -- the poor, the elderly, minorities and women -- to exercise that right.
That's the good news. The bad news is that this right comes from the Missouri state Constitution. The U.S. Constitution does not explicitly guarantee a right to vote, and our federal courts currently read the document not to include it.
ADDING A VOTING RIGHTS AMENDMENT TO THE CONSTITUTION: The United States sees itself as the center of world democracy. But do Americans have the right to vote? Most Americans will be shocked to discover the answer is "No." Unlike the First Amendment's guarantee of freedom of religion, press and assembly, the individual right to vote is not guaranteed in our Constitution!
The House of Representatives shall be composed of Members chosen every second Year by the People of the several States, and the Electors in each State shall have the Qualifications requisite for Electors of the most numerous Branch of the State Legislature.
The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, chosen by the Legislature thereof for six Years; and each Senator shall have one Vote.
The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, elected by the people thereof, for six years; and each Senator shall have one vote. The electors in each State shall have the qualifications requisite for electors of the most numerous branch of the State legislatures.
It is often used in the lay context as an immutable thing; one that cannot under any circumstances be limited. One that exists independent of the government and cannot be restricted. That is how a lay person uses the term, and I was pointing out that interpretation is flawed. The truth is that the federal constitution does not contain an explicit right to vote. Google around: you will see the literature out there discussing the reality that there is no right to vote in the federal constitution. Or even look at the Court grappling with it in Bush v. Gore. Voting is a franchise, not a right in the Constitution.
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