Senate Majority Whip Durbin Reintroduces Constitutional Amendment to Codify the Right to Vote

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Sen. Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) reintroduced a joint resolution yesterday proposing an amendment to enshrine the right to vote in the U.S. Constitution.

“We need to advance additional tools to push back against widespread voter suppression, and that includes providing a north star: an explicit, individual right to vote in the Constitution,” Durbin said in a Tuesday statement.

The amendment would authorize Congress to protect the right to vote through legislation, require any efforts to limit the right to vote to be subject to the strictest level of review in court and ensure that states cannot use Section 2 of the 14th Amendment to prevent Americans who have criminal convictions from voting.

Durbin — who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee — first introduced the resolution in August 2020 ahead of the 55th anniversary of the enactment of the Voting Rights Act. 

“In the words of the late John Lewis, the right to vote is ‘the most powerful nonviolent tool or instrument we have in a democratic society,’” Durbin said in yesterday’s statement. “When Congress passed the Voting Rights Act in 1965, an overwhelming bipartisan majority supported the measure. When it was reauthorized in 2006, not one Senator – Democratic or Republican – voted against the bill.”

Durbin also said that numerous Republican-led states have passed restrictive voting laws. Just yesterday, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) signed three new voter suppression laws.

Cosponsors of the resolution include Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Jeff Merkley (D-Or.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.).

The resolution is also endorsed by multiple civil rights organizations, including the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the Advancement Project and Color of Change, according to Durbin’s statement.

The 2020 resolution stalled in the Senate, which was controlled by Republicans. At the time, Durbin said he introduced the amendment to affect change after then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s GOP held the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act hostage in 2019.

The process to propose and approve a constitutional amendment is long and complicated.

An amendment may be proposed either by the Congress with a two-thirds majority vote in both the House of Representatives and the Senate or by a constitutional convention called for by two-thirds of the state legislatures. None of the Constitution’s 27 amendments have been proposed via constitutional convention.

Then, the amendment must be ratified by three-fourths of the states. The last constitutional amendment was ratified in 1992.

“I recognize that amending the Constitution is no small matter,” Durbin said in his 2020 statement. “I’m well aware that introducing this amendment isn’t going to lead to any immediate change. But I also believe this moment represents the next step in a movement, a movement that will ultimately lead to the ratification of this amendment.”

Read the joint resolution here.

Track the status of the joint resolution here.