I recently made the over-the-moon suggestion that we reinvigorate the Constitution. First, by amending it. Eventually, by replacing it. This post offers three band-aids. Amendments past, present, and future, if you will. Each of which takes a step toward making our government more reflective of, and responsive to, the people it serves.
Band-aid number One: Revise and pass the Equal Rights Amendment.
At this time, the ERA has actually been approved by the minimum required 38 states. However, the time restraint on achieving those passages has expired. Write your congressional representative and get Congress to modify the ERA legislation to enable passage.
Band-aid number Two: Pass the 28th Amendment.
“Congress shall make no law that applies to the citizens of the United States that does not apply equally to the Senators and/or Representatives; and, Congress shall make no law that applies to the Senators and/or Representatives that does not apply equally to the citizens of the United States.”
This amendment is so obviously fair, yet it wallows in Congress: a political body disinclined to put restrictions on itself. So far, twenty states have passed legislation or ballot initiatives calling on Congress to pass this amendment and deliver it to the states for ratification. Contact your representatives to make it happen.
Band-aid number Three: Create a Federal Election Amendment.
“The regulations and requirements for electing any person to an office of the Federal government shall be determined by the Federal government.” Or some such language that attorneys and scholars might draft.
The Constitution, among its many compromises between states’ rights and federal authority, gives states the responsibility (and power) to determine how to run elections. Although this might make sense for state and local elections, it is clearly a nightmare for federal elections. Fifty different sets of registration deadlines, identification requirements, absentee regulations, polling locations, polling hours, postmark dates. Is there any place on earth where so many different sets of rules are used to select someone for one particular elected office?
Our most recent Presidential election is a potent example of how ridiculous is the current patchwork, and may be the reason the nation is ripe for this amendment: right now. Having so many different sets of rules did not, in the end, favor one party or candidate over another. Rather, it favored obfuscation and confusion. Some might argue that was exactly the point. But obfuscation is not the point the Constitution is trying to protect.
The desire to create a level playing field to elect Federal officials can, and should, appeal to all political parties. The array of organizations invested in voting practices runs the ideological gamut, from Stacy Abrams’ Fair Fight, to the non-partisan League of Women Voters, to the American Conservative Union. That diversity actually boosts the strength in achieving an amendment.
Having the same rules for Federal elections in every state does not determine whether voting is easier or more difficult for individuals. It only means that everyone’s hurdles are the same. Congress would establish rules for Federal elections, the Supreme Court would verify their legitimacy, the Executive branch would implement them. Given the current composition of our Federal government—a Democratic House vis-à-vis a Republican Senate and President backed by a conservative Court, a citizen’s requirements to vote could be arduous. The point of the amendment is not to guarantee that voting be easy or difficult; only that the rules be the same everywhere.
I am not an activist or political organizer. I don’t even belong to a political party. But in the new year, after the Georgia special election determines the composition of the US Senate, and establishes DC’s power balance for the next two years, I plan to circulate the idea for a federal election amendment to organizations center, left, and right. Like the 28th amendment, it makes perfect sense. Also like the 28th, I don’t imagine our leaders will enact it unless ‘we the people’ demand.