Rep. Jim Cooper proposes amending U.S. Constitution to protect voting rights

Wednesday, May 1, 2013 at 4:55pm
Updated: 5:45 p.m.

U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Nashville) is crafting a proposed 28th amendment to the U.S. Constitution aimed at protecting citizens’ right to vote, he told the Nashville Bar Association Wednesday.

The Nashville congressman told the legal community he wants its help drumming up support for the amendment, pointing to voting discrepancies in Davidson County.

“Remember that Lincoln told us that government was supposed to be of the people, by the people and for the people. He did not mean some of the people,” said Cooper at the bar association’s “Law Day” luncheon, working off the theme of “Realizing the Dream: Equality for All.”

Cooper’s proposal, which he plans to introduce later this year, would grant a nation-wide constitutional right to vote, a right he said is not now protected nationwide. The measure would require a two-thirds vote in the Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives, then ratification by three-quarters of the states to pass.

The key, according to Cooper, is for judges to subject changes to voting laws to the “harshest possible scrutiny,” also known as “strict scrutiny” under the law.

His constitutional amendment would have probably taken up recent changes to voting laws in Tennessee by the state’s GOP-led legislature, such as those that require voters show certain types of government-issued IDs to cast a ballot, he said. He also pointed to issues within the Davidson County Election Commission, which is reeling over concerns of its mismanagement of the election process.

“People who want to tamper with the vote or mess up elections would know that a federal judge would be on their case stopping that,” Cooper said. “Today, we don’t really have that guarantee. Sometimes they intervene, but after the fact when it’s too late.”

Cooper said his constitutional amendment would likely need to ride the wave of a visible national scandal to gain enough support to pass. “Right now it’s impossible, but things change,” he said.

Longtime attorney George Barrett blames Tennessee’s GOP legislature for bringing the issue to the forefront by passing strict laws that require voters use a state or government-issued ID to vote. He is now awaiting a Tennessee Supreme Court ruling on his challenge to the state’s new voter laws requiring such IDs to vote.

“There’s been a concerted drive by the Republicans to diminish access to the ballot. This state, every state, (since) the Republicans took over the legislature and the governor’s office, they’ve had these horrible, repressive laws to mitigate against the right to vote,” he said.

In setting up his pitch for a new constitutional amendment, Cooper touched on racial tensions, including the high infant mortality rate here among minorities, last year’s uproar over Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration employing a Muslim woman, and the racism of the congressman’s own father, former Tennessee Gov. Prentice Cooper.

“Here in Nashville, TSU student Wilma Rudolph was able to win gold medals in the World Olympics in 1960, yet she could not eat at a Nashville lunch counter, ride a Greyhound bus, go to the hospital, sleep in a hotel or use a women’s restroom. She lived under American apartheid. And my father, a former governor, a Harvard-trained lawyer, did nothing about it. As did many members before him,” Cooper said.

“The acid test for your support for quality under the law involves voting rights, because voting offers power over the law. Should every adult citizen be allowed to vote for our lawmakers? For most of Americans, the answer has been a resounding 'no' due to the fear that that wrong kind of people would vote. It’s one thing to protect local populations, it’s another to share power with them. You might end up giving your country away.”


19 Comments on this post:

By: pswindle on 5/1/13 at 3:24

Thanks Rep. Cooper. It is time for TN and other states to honor the value of voting without restrictions.

By: yogiman on 5/1/13 at 3:51

Why would any American citizen resent proving their eligibility to vote? I remember being proud of it when I cast my first vote.

Why don't they resent proving they are legally eligible to drive an automobile? Aren't they proud of their driving skills?

Voting is like \running for office, especially the Oval Office. You should be proud to be able and willing to prove you are prove your right to vote and/or run.

So why doesn't the Democrat Party want people to run for office or vote on an office without proving their eligibility?

That, ladies and gentlemen, ain't the good ole USA.

By: yogiman on 5/1/13 at 3:55

Ya know, it's funny: I had to prove I was 17 years old and an American citizen when I joined the US Navy but Barry Soetoro didn't have to prove he was 35 years old or a natural born American citizen when he run for president.

Does that mean it's more important to prove you're eligible to be a US Sailor than to be than man's CIC?

By: ancienthighway on 5/1/13 at 6:51

With the requirements to make an amendment, Cooper has a steep uphill battle to win the necessary votes in the Republican held Senate, a House where enough Republicans exist to prevent a 3/4 majority, and the number of red states. Republicans seem to be in favor of blocking any law and any vote that isn't conservative.

It's a sad state when extraordinary means are needed to ensure Americans are able to exercise their right to vote.

By: BenDover on 5/2/13 at 2:19

Cooper has no expectation of passing such an amendment. He's playing spook-the-constituency wedge politics with one of the few wedge issues he thinks can fly in his district.

By: Loner on 5/2/13 at 5:06

An exercise in futility, Mr. Cooper.

The Party of Jeff Davis will not stand for anything like this.....for the Southern-fried GOP; the goal is to disenfranchise certain blocks of voters....a universal right to vote simply runs counter to to their ideology....this voter's rights thing is going nowhere.....too many GOP knuckle-draggers in power, financed by selfish special interests....and yes, they are on a mission from God....they are Judeo-Christian soldiers: armed, dangerous and disgruntled.

By: rldavenport@com... on 5/2/13 at 7:32

Once again, this is absolute poppycock from Democrats who are only concerned about getting more people to vote for them regardless of their eligibility. That's the big reason why neither party will do anything about illegal immigration. This criticism of voter ID is built on nothing but bold-faced lies about the motivation of those who want to ensure fair and quality elections. NOBODY who is qualified to vote is being denied the right to vote!

BenDover is exactly right - this is nothing but a political game designed to drive wedges, not do anything substantive.

By: shinestx on 5/2/13 at 10:34

A useless bill from a useless little congresspeople. Stupor can't seem to get anything through Congress... even when his Demwits were running the show in the House. When asked by a Tennessean reporter why he has been unable to land even partial funding for a long-needed federal courthouse in Nashville, Stupor replied, "I don't know." So on one of the things a congresspeople is required to do (fund the Judiciary), Stupor is AWOL... when it comes to tilting at windmills that are meaningless unless you know the full intent here is to abolisth all ground-requirements for Immigration Reform. Geez, thanks Stupor for putting your hands in the middle just to mess up Immigration Reform. Oh and by the way, Stupor is a Demwit.

By: jonw on 5/2/13 at 1:11

[Remember that Lincoln told us that government was supposed to be of the people, by the people and for the people. He did not mean some of the people,” said Cooper at the bar association’s “Law Day” luncheon, working off the theme of “Realizing the Dream: Equality for All.”]

Somehow, I just don't believe Lincoln meant to include non-citizens. Isn't that what an ID is suppose to do - - - prove your right to vote?

To Loner: Jefferson Davis served as a cabinet member under Franklin Pierce, Democrat. However, the Confederate States did not have parties.

To ancienthighway: Review the parties in control of each branch of Congress. You have it backwards.

By: yucchhii on 5/2/13 at 1:48

Lol...What a CROCK!! Though I believe tha Llincoln said this...BUT Cooper as well as "ALL" the other politicians, be they Democrats or Republicans matters not! Nowadays "ALL" politicians are CRIMINALS!! They will tell you what you WANT TO HEAR!" That's it!! How many politicians have actually FOLLOWED THROUGH and got SERIOUS PROMISES FULFILLED and NOT expect anything in RETURN? I'll BELIEVE when I SEE!!! NOT UNTILL THEN!!! Lets see, how many GULLIBLE people are out there......

By: shinestx on 5/2/13 at 2:01

I agree... the Democrats are despicable. And Jim Stupor is just the latest to take advantage of the dupes. Remember, 42% of Americans in a poll this week do not know that Obamacare is now in effect. 95% of these people voted for Obama. Doh!

By: pipecarver on 5/2/13 at 3:45

Please footnote source material used for all polls. We have a problem with "scientific poll parroting" in this country. Most of these numbers are created by sampling pre-screened, biased viewing audiences by certain 24-hour news networks, with the sole intent on backing up the remarks pulled out of said network's programming manager's rear ends.

By: ancienthighway on 5/2/13 at 4:37

" Isn't that what an ID is suppose to do - - - prove your right to vote?"

Actually, the voter's registration card proves your right to vote.

An ID just proves you are who you claim to be, unless the ID is fake of course.

Only a Passport, US Birth Certificate, or Naturalization Papers prove you are a US Citizen.

And thanks for the correction. I wasn't quite awake when I wrote that.

By: global_citizen on 5/3/13 at 7:40

I don't dismiss the idea of a voting rights constitutional amendment, even as difficult as it is to pass a constitutional amendment. But as commendable as Cooper's proposed amendment might be, it does nothing to rectify the real problem that's disenfranchising some voters. The ridiculous gerrymandering of congressional districts that, by design, nullifies certain votes is the biggest disenfranchisement problem in America today.

By: truthseeker53 on 5/3/13 at 8:00

Vote early, vote often, with little or no real knowledge, we can all be like Chicago, such a nice place. Can't discriminate against those who've already voted and don't even know who their legislators/officials are. Kinda like putting your name in a drawing box many times increases your odds of winning. Yeah, that's the ticket!

By: shinestx on 5/3/13 at 8:09

Global Citizen... why are you so quick to "commend" Cooper's proposal? It's just as plausible that he intends to throw a monkey wrench into Immigration Reform. This is an absolutely horrible proposal based on its meddling intent that runs counter to the Constitution. And you should get your nose out of Mother Jones long enough to know who introduced Gerrymandering... ah yes, a member of the predecessor party to the Democrat Party.

Yet after your commendation to this Democrat backbencher, you proceed to discredit yourself by showing everyone your true colors... read: Democrat = good; Republican = evil. Laughable... to see the narrow mindedness of one who (no doubt) sees himself as such an open-minded "global citizen". Obviously, you'd like nothing less than to have "global voters" in the next presidential election. After all, it would only help the Democrats.

Tip: Go read more than that rag Mother Jones and possibly learn something.

By: global_citizen on 5/3/13 at 6:15

@shinestx, from the level of your vitriol it looks I cut a little too close to the quick. Maybe you need to get your nose out of Fox "news" or whatever other right wing media you prefer and start reading more fact based sources, maybe like Mother Jones.

By: wasaw on 5/3/13 at 7:59

Folks, if you read between the lines, this useless, powerless Congressman is actually saying that he wants to ensure that 'Dems get the votes of the illegal Hispanics. Next will be to reinstate voting privileges of convicted felons. When you think about it, what's the difference between an illegal Hispanic and a convicted felon? The answer; CONVICTION. Neither political parties have the backbone to arrest, try, and convict potential voters.

When is the last time that Congressman jim cooper proposed any relevant piece of legislation that didn't directly benefit jim cooper? Isn't it sad that the only 5th Congressional District voters represented by jim cooper is Vanderbilt Hospital/University, and those eating at the federal entitlement trough. jim cooper doesn't know how to represent hard working, tax paying, legally living, folks. But hey, jim is a 'Dem. That's what he's supposed to do, right pswindle?

By: ancienthighway on 5/6/13 at 10:46

wasaw, you are reading a little too much between the lines.

One of Cooper's goals is to get the federal courts involved in the process before the ever hypothetical problems start. This just goes to show that both parties like to play the "if" game.

The other is to raise the stakes on vote tampering. Seems to me getting illegals to vote would fall into this area.