This is the third in the series, A Soft Landing, which explores how we might achieve a more just, equitable society without violent revolution.
Red. Yellow. Blue. With only three buckets of paint, we can create every color. Mix them carefully and we produce incredible hues. Over stir and everything turns brown.
Our government is currently organized along three distinct levels: Federal, State and Local. The logic in this hearkens back to Colonial charters and reflects a geographically large nation with a wide range of identities. In theory, our three levels of government are distinct as primary colors. In fact, they bleed into one another. Sometimes, they coordinate smoothly to provide equitable services across our broad land. More often, they get mangled over competing interests, pork, time, and politics.
If our new Constitution maintains the divisions of federal, state, and local authority, it should better clarify the responsibilities of each level of government to create clear pathways for implementation and administration. What do I mean by this? Let’s consider the most egregious obfuscation of authority in our current Constitution: voting.
Elections for Federal offices are based on districts established by fifty different states with fifty different sets of rules. This is not just inefficient; it enables inequality that undermines our stated principal of one person, one vote. Motor voter registration, exact signature match, felon eligibility: why do the rules vary so much from state to state? Because our present Constitution gives states the right to determine district boundaries and voter requirements for Federal elections. This is wrong.
The Federal government should draw the districts of its elected representatives, according to clear and consistently applied guidelines. Similarly, the requirements for individuals to vote in any Federal election should be the same for all citizens in our nation.
Our new Constitution should establish uniform, nation-wide criteria to define how Federal elections are held. It should also allow states to establish their own means of administering state elections. True, complications could arise from having different voting rules for different types of elections. But those complications are preferable to our present condition of having different voting rules for the same election.
We should strive to keep our respective levels of government operating as independent from each other as possible. To guide our nation toward functioning equitably, and to prevent primary colors from running to mud.