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Tenth Amendment

Voter ID

 

In the current public discourse, much is being made of ‘voting rights’ – the intensity increases significantly especially as an election approaches.  With no election on the horizon, now would be a good time to discuss Constitutional voting rights.

 

 

 

The Constitution of the United States of America, in both the main document and in several amendments, makes several statements about elections.

 

The qualifications, terms of office and manner of choosing for Congressional Representatives and Senators are set forth in Article 1:

 

 

 

1)  Section 2, Clause 1:  The House of Representatives shall be composed of Members chosen every second Year by the People of the several States, and the Electors in each State shall have the Qualifications requisite for Electors of the most numerous Branch of the State Legislature.

 

2)  Section 2, Clause 2:  No Person shall be a Representative who shall not have attained to the Age of twenty five Years, and been seven Years a Citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an Inhabitant of that State in which he shall be chosen.

 

3)  Section 2, Clause 4:  When vacancies happen in the Representation from any State, the Executive Authority thereof shall issue Writs of Election to fill such Vacancies.

 

 

 

Before we can discuss the selection or election of federal level representation, let’s talk about who these people represent!  In the first clause, Representatives are specifically “chosen… by the People of the several States” thus clearly they are to represent the collective individual citizens of the States – NOT their affiliated political party; NOT their campaign contributors; and NOT their corporate sponsors. 

 

 

 

But there is nothing here that defines who can vote other than ‘elected by the People’.  So how are citizen voters enfranchised?  Who is allowed to vote?  Who is ‘the people’?  Read the above Constitutional clauses again. The only mention of the actual election of these office holders is in the first clause above.  The States are given responsibility and authority to determine the polling schedules, polling places, candidate eligibility, how victors are determined, how campaigns can and cannot be run, etc.  Importantly, there is no provision for determining who is allowed to vote for federal representatives other than suffrage is granted to States’ citizens who are eligible to cast votes for “the most numerous Branch of the State Legislature” which is usually the State ‘House of Representatives’ [the ‘lower house is called the ‘State Assembly’ in California and ‘House of Delegates’ in Virginia while Nebraska has only a single ‘house’, the “Unicameral” of ‘senators’].  So, in theory, a State citizen entitled to vote for a ‘Representative’ might not be enfranchised for the State Senate or Governor elections!    Even today, not every citizen is allowed to vote; for example, citizens below the age of 18 years are disenfranchised and convicted felons are prohibited from voting in some States.

 

At the time of the inception of the USA, as a general rule, only free male landowners had suffrage.  Property ownership as a requirement to vote was dropped by the States during the early 19th century.

 

While the Thirteenth Amendment abolished slavery, it did not confer citizenship to former slaves.  The Fourteenth Amendment did that, but still did not protect their right to vote.  So the Fifteenth Amendment was needed to definitively declare:  The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.

 

But it still did not grant women suffrage, even though some States like Wyoming and Colorado gave women full voting rights.  The Nineteenth Amendment finally bestowed universal suffrage to women:  The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.

 

Even after suffrage was granted to citizens of all religions, colors, races and sexes, some states put barriers to people of limited economic means by requiring voters to pay a ‘poll tax’.  This was also seen as a strategy to prohibit black Americans from voting.  The Twenty-fourth Amendment prohibited that practice in federal elections:  The right of citizens of the United States to vote in any primary or other election for President or Vice President, for electors for President or Vice President, or for Senator or Representative in Congress, shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any state by reason of failure to pay any poll tax or other tax.” Technically the Constitutional ability to vote for any federal level elected office (‘universal suffrage’) was not granted until 1962.

 

States could still deny the right to vote to citizens younger than 21 years of age.  In the late 1960s it became evident that sending a young man to Vietnam or any other foreign locales to fight and die and yet be unable to vote for a government controlling his life thusly was highly unfair.  The Twenty-sixth Amendment changed that in 1971:  The right of citizens of the United States, who are 18 years of age or older, to vote, shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any state on account of age.

 

 

 

So now all American citizens 18 years or older and of any religion, color, race, sex and economic condition have the right to vote in any election in the USA.  However, and very importantly, a British subject may not cast a vote in an election in the USA.  Nor is a French citizen permitted to vote.  A Canadian citizen, having lived 40 years in the USA, but not becoming a naturalized American citizen and renouncing her Canadian birthright may not vote in any election held in the USA.  Handicapped American citizens can vote. Homosexual American citizens can vote.  Illiterate American citizens can vote.  Senile American citizens can vote.  But, not non-citizens!

 

The key and consistent thread in this history and the foregoing list is that American citizens vote in American elections.  An American citizen living anywhere in the world may cast a vote in an election held in their home State via absentee ballot.  Universally, a citizen need only register to be eligible to cast a vote in an election.  They must make a conscious decision to participate in their own governance.  To register to vote in any election in the USA, a person need only prove they are old enough, have not been convicted of a felony, live in the jurisdiction where they intend to vote and are a citizen of the USA.

 

 

 

How can the local Board of Elections know a person presenting themselves as eligible to vote is indeed eligible?  The potential voter must prove who they are to the satisfaction of the local government official.  They need sufficient documentation, determined by the State – not the federal government – of proof of identity.  It is not too much to ask, to prove citizenship and identity.  It is, in fact, very easy and necessary:  every citizen is issued a birth certificate and, these days, a Social Security Identity number.

 

Once registered, a citizen merely appears at a polling location and tells the poll worker his name.  The worker verifies the voter is on the official registration list and informs the voter that he has already voted.  What?  Yes, there’s no mistake, see, the voter’s name has been entered on two confirming lists, no doubt, he’s already voted.  While the poll worker was showing him the evidence of his previous visit, he notices that Mrs. Fallon, his neighbor who died 6 months ago also voted that morning…

 

 

 

What is so terrible about verification of identity of voters at the time of casting a vote? Proof of identity is required to get a driver’s license in every State.  These days it is impossible to cash a check without a photo ID.  It is definitely impossible to open a financial account at a bank, get a document notarized or fly on a commercial airplane without an official ID.  Donating blood and going to a doctor usually requires a ‘photo ID’!  States offer identification cards with a photograph, those ‘photo IDs’, to non-drivers with the same proof of identity.  These non-driver’s license IDs are usually free or only a few dollars.  What is the privilege to cast a vote worth?  Is not casting a vote as valuable and serious a transaction as cashing a check or patronizing an airline?

 

 

 

Quite plainly, the argument against voter identity verification is an empty, bogus and insulting effort.  The right to vote is a hard-won right as the history summarized above reveals.  It is simple common sense that this precious participation in government be protected by the easy step of verifying the identity of the voters.  It is not an ‘unalienable right’ like the right to protect one’s life, worship as one chooses or speak one’s mind without punishment.  It is a privilege that any government is not required to grant.  However, it is a responsibility that the American founders felt precious and must be valued and protected.  The cherished ability to participate in the process of government should not be cheapened by letting anyone fraudulently manipulate the results of any election.

 

 

 

 

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