You don’t actually have a right to vote

Nope, you don’t.  You cannot be denied a right to vote because of your gender, race, or age, but that is not the same thing as an affirmative right to vote.  And that is a damn important difference and definitely a failing in our democracy.  In the current context of voter suppression via Voter ID laws it would also be awfully consequential.  I think we should be very judicious in trying to amend the Constitution, but I can think of fewer more worthy ideas than a Constitutional right to vote.  Not to mention, sure strikes me as a political winner– who’s going to want to openly oppose that (other than Republicans, of course).  Yglesias:

When the constitution was enacted it did not include a right to vote for the simple reason that the Founders didn’t think most people should vote. Voting laws, at the time, mostly favored white, male property-holders, and the rules varied sharply from state to state. But over the first half of the nineteenth century, the idea of popular democracy took root across the land. Property qualifications were universally abolished, and the franchise became the key marker of white male political equality. Subsequent activists sought to further expand the franchise, by barring discrimination on the basis of race (the 15th Amendment) and gender (the 19th) — establishing the norm that all citizens should have the right to vote.

But this norm is just a norm. There is no actual constitutional provision stating that all citizens have the right to vote, only that voting rights cannot be dispensed on the basis of race or gender discrimination. A law requiring you to cut your hair short before voting, or dye it blue, or say “pretty please let me vote,” all might pass muster. And so might a voter ID requirement.

The legality of these kinds of laws hinge on whether they violate the Constitution’s protections against race and gender discrimination, not on whether they prevent citizens from voting. As Harvard Law professor Lani Guinier has written, this “leaves one of the fundamental elements of democratic citizenship tethered to the whims of local officials.”…

The solution, both to America’s voting access problem and to alleviating public concerns about fraud, is to establish an affirmative right to vote.

America prohibits racial and gender discrimination in voting rights because of a clear belief in the importance of voting to equal citizenship. The best way to vindicate this right would be through something like the language of a proposed constitutional amendment introduced last year by Reps. Mark Pocan and Keith Ellison, which states that “every citizen of the United States, who is of legal voting age, shall have the fundamental right to vote in any public election held in the jurisdiction in which the citizen resides.”

A constitutional right to vote would instantly flip the script on anti-fraud efforts. States would retain a strong interest in developing rules and procedures that make it hard for ineligible voters to vote, but those efforts would be bounded by an ironclad constitutional guarantee that legitimate citizens’ votes must be counted. A state that wanted to require possession of a certain ID card to vote, for example, would have to take affirmative steps to ensure that everyone has that ID card, or that there’s a process for an ID-less citizen to cast a ballot and have it counted later upon verification of citizenship…

And while it’s easy for politicians to talk about their desire to secure the ballot, a Voting Rights Amendment would be difficult to oppose.

But beyond the politics, it’s a good idea on the merits. It would enshrine in our constitution a principle that we already believe: that the right to vote is an inherent attribute of citizenship and a cornerstone of civic equality.

Maybe I’m crazy, but it seems like a real winner for the Democrats to take up this issue.  Of course, for it to actually pass, which would be the ideal outcome, it would need to be truly bipartisan.  Either way, sign me up.

Photo of the day

From Telegraph’s animal photos of the week:

A red squirrel adopts a superman-like pose, leaping over three metre gaps between branches in pursuit of nuts.

A red squirrel adopts a superman-like pose, leaping over three metre gaps between branches in pursuit of nuts. They are a common species in the woodland areas between Stavanger and Bergen in Norway. Rolf Selvik lives on the forest edge and has been following the red squirrels for years, taking the opportunity to photograph them in flight.Picture: Rolf Selvik /Solent News

The decline of Southern Evangelicals

Wow– I had no idea about this.  I knew that Americans were getting gradually more secular, but I was quite surprised to learn just how much white Christian Evangelicals had declined in many Southern states in recent years.  Of course, this matters politically because they are such a key GOP constituency.  Now, to be clear, they are still very influential in these states and will continue to be for many years, but this is yet another demographic trendline the Republican Party is now on the losing end of.  Here’s the key chart from Robert Jones‘ Atlantic article:

And a little 2014 election context:

So what does this mean for the 2014 elections? Certainly, events on the ground are still paramount; the campaign machines and peculiarities of candidates matter. And in low-turnout elections such as the midterms, the real weight of these demographic and religious shifts will not yet be fully felt at the ballot box. White evangelical Protestants have a strong turnout record, while non-black ethnic minorities and particularly the religiously unaffiliated are much less likely to vote. PRRI’s pre-election American Values Survey found that while two-thirds (65 percent) of white evangelical Protestants report that they were absolutely certain to vote in the November elections, less than half (45 percent) of the religiously unaffiliated report this kind of certainty. But the underlying trends indicate that at least one reason why there are a number of close elections across the South is the declining dominance of white evangelical Protestants, the most stalwart of GOP supporters.

Also, I was intrigued by the American Values Survey.  Check it out– it’s awesome.  For example, here’s the religious breakdown of the three states where I have lived most of the years of my life:


And you can do that for any state you want.  Any demographic data, etc.  I could spend hours with this.  But, there’s blog posts to write and TV to watch.

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