About the Right to Vote Initiative
The Right to Vote Initiative of Advancement Project’s Power and Democracy Program is building a next-generation, pro-democracy movement at the grassroots level to shore up the foundation of our democracy: the fundamental right to political participation for all.
By organizing to defend and strengthen the fundamental right to vote – through constitutional amendments, legislation or litigation at the federal and state levels – the Right to Vote Initiative seeks to ensure access to the ballot and to stimulate voter participation by re-imagining the rights of voters and the meaning of American democracy itself.
Surprisingly, our federal constitution does not contain explicit language affirming the fundamental right to vote. Indeed, former President Barack Obama, as a constitutional law professor at the University of Chicago, began each of his classes with the startling fact that our Constitution does not provide “a fundamental individual ‘right to vote.’”
“The Constitution created no voters. Rather, it said that the voters would be the people that the states determined could vote. And then you had amendments to the Constitution . . . . But those are negative proscriptions. They are not an affirmative guarantee that we really want all citizens of the United States to participate in making the decisions that affect their lives. So this is a structural defect that is at the heart of our constitutional arrangement.” – Professor Lani Guinier, Harvard Law School
Without an affirmative guarantee or explicit protection in the U.S. Constitution, the right to vote has remained largely controlled by state and local authorities, where historically and today, it is vulnerable to assault by white political majorities seeking to maintain their power by suppressing the voting rights of people of color. In recent years, dozens of states have been on the offense. And in the aftermath of the 2016 election cycle, new federal-level attacks have joined ongoing state-level assaults, creating nothing short of a state of emergency for the right to vote.
About Advancement Project
The Right to Vote Initiative is housed at Advancement Project, a next generation, multi-racial civil rights organization. Rooted in the great human rights struggles for equality and justice, we exist to fulfill America’s promise of a caring, inclusive and just democracy. We use innovative tools and strategies to strengthen social movements and achieve high impact policy change. For more information, visit advancementproject.org.