Monday, January 07, 2008

It's Your Right To Vote - Or Is It?

Do you, as an American citizen, have a Constitutional Right to vote?

The answer may depend on how the U.S. Constitution is interpreted (some say) or if you give a state constitution more authority. The majority of state constitutions do explicitly state that citizens have a right to vote, which is the case in Tennessee, where the state's constitution says in Article IV, Section 1:

"Every person, being eighteen years of age, being a citizen of the United States, being a resident of the state for a period of time as prescribed by the General Assembly, and being duly registered in the county of residence for a period of time prior to the day of any election as prescribed by the General Assembly, shall be entitled to vote in all federal, state, and local elections held in the county or district in which such person resides. All such requirements shall be equal and uniform across the state, and there shall be no other qualification attached to the right of suffrage."

In his opinion on the Gore v. Bush case in the 2000 election, Justice Anthony Scalia made reference to voting rights and the electoral college:

" ... t
he individual citizen has no federal constitutional right to vote for electors for the President of the United States ..."

And so much argument has been offered from his view, but linking how the electoral college works to the individuals right to vote is more than stretching for comparisons, as I see it. Still, the argument is made that American citizens don't have a right to vote (see the comments from Nashville's MCB, where the consensus is .... mixed, or at best confused), and that the current voter ID system must be changed.

If the right to vote is not explicitly stated, is it implicit, since we have several amendments declaring a voter cannot be discriminated (or eliminated) due to race, sex or age?

That issue is sure to be a topic in the presentation of a case before the Supreme Court this week challenging the very strict Voter ID Law adopted in Indiana. Also key to the presentation is that no evidence has yet been provided in the case to show that the Indiana Law would/could/does prevent voter fraud.

An excellent overview of the case was presented by American Constitutional Society last week in a panel forum which you can access right here.

There is a push in some states to adopt a federal constitutional amendment explicitly stating a right to vote.

Seems to me there are many inherent problems in deciding to make voting regulations/rights a federal and not a state issue. And I wonder too if much of the debate over IDs and rights to vote have a larger agenda in mind. All the studies I've seen make it clear that voting fraud is almost always a problem with absentee ballots and seldom at a polling location, as each state has specific laws already in place regarding IDs to be presented before casting a ballot.

The outcome of the Supreme Court case may not be offered until late fall of this year - just prior to the presidential election day. Again, odd timing in my mind.

The problem isn't voter fraud in the US, it's voter participation. And who benefits in a conflicting debate on whether or not we have a right to vote? Are hopes that a confused voter will be a non-voter in evidence here?

See Also:
The Crone Speaks

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