It’s time to enshrine this fundamental right in the Constitution and secure it with federal standards. More than 10 years ago, after the Bush v. Gore decision, my son Jesse Jackson Jr., joined with Rep. John Conyers and others to introduce a constitutional amendment guaranteeing the right to vote. In May, Reps. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) and Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) came together to launch the effort once more with new legislation.
It’s easy to be cynical about the effort. Only 27 amendments have been added to the Constitution in our nation’s history. An amendment must win a daunting two-thirds majority of both the U.S. House and Senate, and then be ratified by three-fourths of the state legislatures. (It could also be adopted in a Constitutional Convention, but no amendment has gone that route.) This in a Congress that has a hard time assembling a majority to keep the government open.
But this is an effort that we must make. Because victory will be difficult, winning it will elevate voting rights beyond the tides of partisan politics. The current state of our election system is an international disgrace, with constrictive election rules making it hard for working and poor people to vote in many states. Citizens are now forced to mobilize to defend their voting rights from Wisconsin to North Carolina.
Now, as we mark the anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, it’s time to make certain that the right to vote, the foundation of any democracy, is defined and protected in our Constitution.
(Jesse L. Jackson Sr. is founder and president of the Chicago-based Rainbow PUSH Coalition. You can keep up with his work at www.rainbowpush.org.)
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