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Should the United States Constitution be amended to guarantee the right to vote? To the average citizen – and probably many lawyers – this almost certainly would be taken as an absurd question. Most people probably assume that the right to vote is, at least in principle, already guaranteed by the Constitution even if our practices fall short of our ideals. But, in fact, although the Constitution frequently refers to the “right … to vote” – and the Supreme Court’s jurisprudence has long treated voting as a fundamental right – the right to vote per se is nowhere guaranteed. A right-to-vote amendment would, in the words of the Reverend Jesse Jackson, “[p]ut the right to vote into the Constitution.” Given the fundamental place of the right to vote in our thinking about democracy, that sounds like an incontestably good idea. But the issue is not as simple as that. Amending the Constitution is sufficiently onerous – requiring initial approval by two-thirds of both the House of Representatives and of the Senate, followed by the ratification by the legislatures of three-fourths of the states – that only twenty-seven amendments have been ratified in the 226 years since the Constitution came into effect, with only two amendments taking effect in the last forty-five years. Securing the passage and ratification of a right-to-vote amendment would involve a major effort of political will. Would it be worth the effort?


Constitutional Law | Election Law | Law