U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison is taking his case against voter ID laws straight to the Constitution.
He and U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, a Wisconsin Democrat, are trying to encourage support for their “right to vote” amendment that will guarantee a citizen voting rights “in any public election held in the jurisdiction in which the citizen resides,” according to the resolution’s text.
Ellison and Pocan are holding a voting rights forum in Minneapolis Thursday, which will feature leaders from Asian American and Somali groups. The members are two of the 32 House Democrats supporting this potential amendment.
The 15th amendment bans denying voting based on race or color; the 19th amendment prohibits restricting voting based on gender; the 26th amendment bars voting restrictions on age. But none of these amendments explicitly give a voting guarantee to all citizens that would nullify states’ voter ID laws.
“We have a crisis of civic participation in America and we need a renaissance of civic participation,” Ellison said.
There are only 27 amendments for good reason — amending the Constitution is arduous. Besides a small amendment on Congressional salaries ratified in 1992 (which was approved 202 years after its submission), a Constitutional amendment hasn’t been ratified in more than 40 years. If two-thirds of the House and Senate approve the right to vote amendment, it can’t be ratified until three-fourths of the states approve it.
Pocan introduced the legislation in the House with Ellison and 23 cosponsors on Jan. 21. It was referred to the Subcommittee on Constitution and Civil Justice on Feb. 2.
Ellison has been passionate about voter ID laws for years; he introduced a bill in 2013 to stop officials from requiring photo identification to cast a ballot or making them use provisional ballots because of lack of photo ID, but no further action was taken on it.
Some type of voter ID law is in effect in 32 states. Eight states, including Wisconsin, require that photo ID is shown before casting a ballot. On March 23, the Supreme Court declined to hear a challenge to Wisconsin’s voter ID law.
Minnesota isn’t one of these states — its proposed voter ID law failed in 2012 — but the issue is still important to Ellison.
He said that government should reflect the desires of the people, and in the midst of these voter ID laws, there’s a “tremendous opportunity we have to shape our government.”
Many Republicans, including Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, support voter ID laws to prevent voter fraud.
“This is great news for Wisconsin voters,” Walker said in a release following the Supreme Court’s decline to hear Wisconsin's voter ID challenge last month. “As we’ve said, this is a common sense reform that protects the integrity of our voting process, making it easy to vote and hard to cheat.”