For some reason our wild and crazy wig-wearing Founding Fathers didn't see the need to build the right to vote into the Constitution. Instead, they decided to leave it up to the individual States to determine who, where, when, and how we vote. Oh sure, some voting rights have been amended into the Constitution in the form of anti-discrimination prohibitions (15th, 19th, and 26th), but the fundamental and very human right of the franchise is nowhere to be found. Zero. Zip. Nil. Nada.
Turns out that while election integrity activists have been busy fighting against systemic disenfranchisement, Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr., has been introducing House Joint Resolution 28 (H.J. Res. 28) --- legislation calling for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution granting everyone the affirmative right to vote --- in every Congress since 2001, noting that "It's time to scrap the states' rights-based system we have now, and place the right to vote alongside the constitutionally-protected right to free speech."
Today, Rep. Jackson furthered his cause by releasing a statement to the press citing a new report by the Advancement Project (which "details a dizzying array of Election Day meltdowns), as well as the documentary Uncounted: The New Math of American Elections (which offers "evidence of how voting machines themselves can create problems"). Both the report and the film, he says...
After the momentary "Oh my God I forgot to vote and isn't that ironic?" panic I had after reading his quote - primary election day in Tennessee is Thursday, August 7th and not Tuesday (but if you live in Michigan and you didn't vote yesterday you snoozed and loozed...er, lost) --- his misstatement really does prove his point, "Until we put [the right to vote in the Constitution] we will continue to have presidents selected by the Supreme Court, partisan officials crafting rules in their favor, and voters disenfranchised by political games or plain old sloppiness." Yeah, what he said. What sloppy Tennessee election official mandated a Thursday primary election day?!?
The most important part of the report, besides identifying concrete strategies for ultimately achieving the right to vote, is the very accurate observation that our current system contracts, rather than expands, the franchise.
Disenfranchisement is not anathema to the system - it's part of it.
Mary Mancini blogs on behalf of the documentary film Uncounted: The New Math of American Elections. She lives in Tennessee and has not yet had her vote go uncounted in tomorrow's state primary election.