How Many Times Has The 14th Amendment Been Invoked? This Presidential Election May Call For It

WARREN, MICHIGAN - JANUARY 15: A sign points Michigan voters in the right direction as they go to the polls to vote in the Michigan primariy at a polling precinct January 15, 2008 in Warren, Michigan. Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)
Source: Bill Pugliano/Getty Images News/Getty Images

If there has been one running theme to the aftermath of the 2016 presidential election, perhaps it was the fear that people's votes were not being equally counted. From the real-life cases of voter suppression to Donald Trump's cries of "rigged," it seems that the trust in the constitution to protect Americans' votes had, understandably, waned. But though it is certainly not foolproof, the constitution is designed to do just that — and consequently, punish those that have a hand in denying people their right to vote. If invoked, Section 2 of the 14th Amendment will specifically punish states that have been active in voter suppression by lessening their representation in the House of Representatives. 

Though this specific section has not been invoked in the past, perhaps it is time to revisit the possibility. If a state is caught in the act of voter suppression, then that state loses representation in proportion to the number of people denied the right to vote. Should a state be found guilty in large instances of voter suppression, it would theoretically be dealt a massive blow to its legislative and executive powers. 

In describing this section of the 14th amendment, Thaddeus Stevens, the leader of the Republicans in the House of Representatives said:

The second section I consider the most important in the article. It fixes the basis of representation in Congress. If any State shall exclude any of her adult male citizens from the elective franchise, or abridge that right, she shall forfeit her right to representation in the same proportion. The effect of this provision will be either to compel the States to grant universal suffrage or so shear them of their power as to keep them forever in a hopeless minority in the national Government, both legislative and executive.

There is one state in particular that could stand to lose representation on account of the 14th amendment's suppression statute. North Carolina reportedly sought to revoke the rights of nearly 6,700 voters — most of whom were black Democrats — during early voting this year. The reasoning fell under a controversial, muddled state law that allows anyone to revoke the voting registration of a resident by challenging their place of residency. Individuals can collect undeliverable mail, call into question the registration of the voter at that address, and that voter must then appear at a county board of election or return a notarized form. If they fail to do so, their registration is revoked and their voting rights invalidated. 

The North Carolina NAACP sued the state for voter suppression, calling the Tar Heel State "ground zero in the intentional surgical efforts by Republicans — or extremists who have hijacked the Republican Party — to suppress the voice of voters." 

Thankfully, a North Carolina federal judge granted a preliminary injunction to the NAACP just before the election, ordering that registration be reinstated for the thousands that lost their rights to the "individual challenge law." 

But nevertheless, voter suppression tactics in North Carolina seem to have been at play for years. Considering this fact, section 2 of the 14th amendment may come in handy in curbing this unconstitutional behavior. 

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