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I Have the Right to Vote…Right?

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December 8, 2008

My favorite section of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is Article 21, which states that “everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives.” Why is this section so important? After all, if you’re a citizen of the United States and 18 or older, you have the right to right to vote…right?

Sadly, you don’t. Many Americans believe that the U.S. Constitution grants citizens the right to vote, but it doesn’t. Rather, the Constitution merely says you cannot deny individuals the right to vote due to race, gender or age. Nowhere does the Constitution say voting is a right.

We just finished one of the biggest and most expensive elections in the history of the United States and it seems like you couldn’t do anything without having celebrities, candidates and your co-workers urging you to vote. Voting is, after all, our greatest civic duty. What could be more fundamentally American than the right to vote? Apparently the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 21.

More information on the ACLU’s work on voting and human rights is available in Out of Step With the World: An Analysis of Felony Disfranchisement in the U.S. and other Democracies.

Celebrate the UDHR at 60 with the ACLU. Visit and sign the ACLU’s petition calling on the government and newly elected president to recommit to the UDHR. On December 10, the ACLU’s efforts will culminate in the online launch of an exclusive publication about the importance of the UDHR.

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