A few years ago I got into the cyber-version of a knock-down, drag-out fight on a political forum. The discussion was whether or not the Constitution spells out the right to vote. I was amazed to read from so many who opined that the Constitution does not, that it only protects the right. I was even more amazed at the amount of grief, the level of verbal assault launched at me when I not only wrote that it did but I also backed up my contention by copying and pasting directly from the official website of the Constitution of the United States of America.
See, I’m a simple gal; I figure the opening phrase of Amendments XV, XIX and XXVI being “The right of the citizens of the United States to vote” meant just that–that citizens, all of them, have the right to vote, although it was being denied to some by virtue of their race, gender, the legal age-of-majority. So it was decided that amendments were required to stop those in power from denying the right. Said amendments were submitted, adopted and ratified; the Constitution was amended such that all citizens no matter their race or gender and so long as they have reached the age of 18, may freely exercise their Constitutional enumerated and protected right to vote.
Wow, what a dust-up ensued! There was a huge amount of linguistic gymnastics, a number of links to articles from Constitutional scholars, (real ones, not the plethora of claimants we were inundated with during the Clinton Impeachment), some of whom attempted to argue that the right did not exist in and of itself previous to those amendments being written. Really? That’s odd, as I recall learning about it way back in American Government class in the 5th grade. (That would be 1973 for those who are keeping score.)
Did all these people miss that particular part of class? Were they all asleep when Article IV, Section 4 of the Constitution was being discussed? If you happen to need the refresher, allow me:
U.S. Constitution: Article IV – The States
Section 4 – Republican Government
The Unites States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government, and shall protect each of them against Invasion; and on Application of the Legislature, or of the Executive (when the Legislature cannot be convened) against Domestic Violence.
“Yeah? Well I don’t see nothing about ‘the right to vote’ there” was posted (along with other variations which require too much censoring for me to write here). Umm … “a Republican Form of Government–”I reiterate. “So?”
Pulling out my handy-dandy dictionary (really just going to Dictionary.com and doing the copy-and-paste move again):
republic n 1 : a government having a chief of state who is not a monarch and is usually a president; also : a nation or other political unit having such a government 2 : a government in which supreme power is held by the citizens entitled to vote and is exercised by elected officers and representatives governing according to law; also : a nation or other political unit having such a form of government
Knowing what would be coming next, I headed ‘em off at the pass and added: “entitle v, used with object 1 : to give (a person or thing) a title, right, or claim to something; furnish with grounds for laying claim”
The right to vote – yep, it’s in there all right.