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Advancement Project National Office Statement: We Endorse the Proposed Constitutional Amendment to Enshrine an Affirmative and Explicit Right to Vote For All

August 4, 2020

Today, Dick Durbin (D-IL) proposed a constitutional provision finally enshrining the right to vote as a fundamental right in the U.S. Constitution.

The Right to Vote Amendment guarantees “the fundamental right to vote in any public election” for every citizen of legal voting age and requires courts to apply the highest level of judicial review to voter suppression laws that deny or restrict the fundamental right to vote, including state criminal disenfranchisement laws.

“President Barack Obama recently eulogized Representative John Lewis as a ‘Founding Father’ of ‘a better America’. If John Lewis is a new Founding Father, then this amendment is a bold step towards that new America,” Edward A. Hailes, Jr., Managing Director and General Counsel of Advancement Project National Office said. “This amendment, combined with passage of the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2020, would once and for all secure the right to vote for all. This proposal is a historic step forward in ensuring that no American, including Americans who are formerly incarcerated individuals and returning citizens, are denied their constitutional right to vote.”

For two decades, Advancement Project National Office has championed an affirmative and explicit right to vote amendment. The  Right to Vote Amendment proposed today would once and for all affirmatively enshrine the right to vote in the U.S. Constitution, placing an enormous burden on states to defend each and every barrier they might hope to impose on the franchise. Importantly, for the first time, the language of the Amendment addresses returning citizens’ voting rights.

“A constitutional amendment enshrining the right to vote is needed now more than ever. Americans know that their right to vote is not secure, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Judith Browne Dianis, Executive Director of Advancement Project National Office said. “Everyone’s heart dropped when the U.S. Supreme Court failed to protect the right to vote of Wisconsin voters during the primary. Everyone’s heart broke as we watched Wisconsin voters, especially Black voters, risk their lives to vote. In the absence of this amendment, politicians will continue playing fast and loose with our lives and our right to vote, adopting or maintaining restrictive voting laws without providing any compelling evidence for imposing them. Courts will continue to look the other way. We would never tolerate this kind of deference with other rights, like the right of free speech or freedom of religion. It’s time to protect voting in the same way. It’s time to arm ourselves with one of the powerful tools possible in the fight against voter suppression in the 21st century — an affirmative right to vote.”

“This is the moment for an ‘impossible,’ visionary demand like the right to vote amendment,” said Catoya Roberts, National Network Coordinator for Advancement Project National Office. “We have long known that the right to vote is ‘missing’ from the federal Constitution because during the founding of this country, slave states were ‘fiercely unwilling’ to add an affirmative and explicit right to vote in the federal constitution. Instead, voting still largely remains within control of states and local election officials, where it is more vulnerable to relentless assaults. Today, millions of Americans of all races have joined a Black-led movement to demand a national reckoning over this country’s historic and present-day racism. Now is the time to finally enshrine an affirmative right to vote in the U.S. Constitution. Advancement Project National Office and our partner organizations look forward to being at the table with Senator Warren and Senator Durbin as we continue to build power to advance and expand our democracy.”