As primary season heats up and Election Day approaches, voter purging continues to be a concern. However, the second sentence of Section 2 of the 14th Amendment offers hope that states who mess with the voting rolls and polling locations will have a price to pay: reduced representation in the House of Representatives.
Pleading the 14th
According to the 14th Amendment:
Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each state, excluding Indians not taxed. But when the right to vote at any election for the choice of electors for President and Vice President of the United States, Representatives in Congress, the Executive and Judicial officers of a State, or the members of the Legislature thereof, is denied to any of the male inhabitants of such state, being twenty-one years of age, and citizens of the United States, or in any way abridged, except for participation in rebellion, or other crime, the basis of representation therein shall be reduced in the proportion which the number of such male citizens shall bear to the whole number of male citizens twenty-one years of age in such state.
These forgotten words mean that any state that denies a citizen of age the right to vote will face a penalty. Yes, there are several issues with the passage that need updating. They are limiting voting to “male inhabitants” (not corrected until five amendments and 52 years later, in 1920) and “being twenty-one years of age” (not lowered to the current age of 18 until 1971!). Still, sounds encouraging, right?
Bill Barr would probably love to weigh in
Sadly, there are too many unanswerable questions. How would this be enforced? By whom? And if a state lost some House seats, would these seats completely vanish or be re-distributed to another, more virtuous state? And, finally, how long would the state be penalized? Until the suppression is over? Until the next election? This is why this long-ignored section will continue to be ignored.
What you can do
Make sure you and everyone you know is registered. And please consider donating to the League of Women Voters.