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Think You Have a Constitutional Right to Vote? You'd Be Wrong

Updated: May 19

Ask any American what is the most important right granted to U.S. citizens and the answer would be the right to vote. But you would be wrong. The Supreme Court affirmed in its 2000 decision in Bush v. Gore that there is no constitutional right to vote.[1] The majority in the 5-4 decision wrote “[t]he individual citizen has no federal constitutional right to vote for electors for the President of the United States."[2] 


The Fifteenth Amendment extended voting rights to men of all races, the Nineteenth enacted women’s right to vote, and the Twenty-fourth Amendment prohibited the use of poll taxes. But none of these amendments create a constitutional right to vote.[3]


The Voting Rights Act of 1965 enacted landmark legislation to remove race-based restriction on voting. But the 2013 Supreme Court Decision in Shelby County v. Holder held that certain provisions placed an impermissible burden on the principles of federalism and “equal sovereignty of the states.”[4]


That decision laid the foundation for aggressive attacks on voting rights across the U.S. Participation of Black voters increased dramatically following the passage to the Voting Rights Act.[5],[6]


The Supreme Court’s doctrine of protecting the “equal sovereignty of the states” means that those gains have been and will continue to be undermined.


In the years since the Shelby decision, state legislatures across the country have passed numerous laws to suppress Americans’ right to vote and systematically disenfranchise voters. Purging voter rolls. Cutting voting times. Eliminating polling locations in minority communities. Voter ID laws. The list goes on.


More than 19 million people were purged from voter rolls between the 2020 and 2022 election cycles, many incorrectly.[7] Stricter voter ID laws have been found to reduce minority voter participation by ten to thirteen percent.[8]


The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act[9] protects voters from race-based discrimination and sets standards to enable all voters to experience free and fair elections. Among other things the Act provides for automatic voter registration, prohibits partisan gerrymandering, and places restrictions on voter purges.


On May 4th of this year congressional Democrats reintroduced the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. Democratic Senators introduced the legislation on February 29th.


John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act is needed now more than ever. With no constitutional right to vote it is critical that legal protections be enacted to stop the anti-democratic efforts of the extreme right.






[4] Shelby County v. Holder570 U.S. 529 (2013)







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