Voting and the Constitution
Published August 15th 2008 in New York Times
To the Editor:

Your excellent editorial “The Right to Vote” (Aug. 9) doesn’t mention one key point that helps explain problems in protecting our right to vote: the Constitution does not guarantee suffrage rights.

At our nation’s founding, there was no consensus on suffrage, with decisions about voting given to the states, which often punted it to localities. Today, more than 12,000 jurisdictions make independent decisions affecting administration of presidential elections, often with insufficient financing.

Some nine million Americans who cannot vote for president and Congress (mostly because of felony convictions and living in territories) could do so if living elsewhere in the country. More than a quarter of eligible voters are not registered to vote, while millions are registered more than once.

Just as free speech is fundamental to democracy, so is a right to vote. It’s time for more attention to H.J.R. 28, legislation to establish a constitutional right to vote for American adults.

Rob Richie
Executive Director, FairVote
Takoma Park, Md., Aug. 12, 2008