The recent SOPA/PIPA grass-roots Internet kerfuffle got me thinking about participatory democracy and the ability for United States citizens to influence legislation in the United States, and I present this for consideration:
A PROPOSED 28th AMENDMENT TO THE UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION
Section 1. The twelfth article of amendment to the Constitution of the United States is hereby repealed.
Section 2. The offices of President and Vice-President shall be directly elected by the citizens of the United States of America by ballot. The person having the greatest number of votes for President, shall be the President. The person having the greatest number of votes for Vice-President, shall be the Vice-President.
Section 3. In the event the greatest numbers of votes cast as described in Section 2 for either or both the office of President or the office of Vice-President are an equal number, the United States Congress shall convene no later than three days after the Presidential and Vice-Presidential election, and each member shall choose by ballot either the President or Vice-President as needed. The balloting and tabulation thereof shall be overseen jointly by the Speaker of the House, the President of the Senate, and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. All ballots shall be a matter of public record and recorded in the Federal Register. The person having the greatest number of votes as President, shall be the President and the person having the greatest number of votes as Vice-President, shall be the Vice-President.
Section 4. In the event the ballots cast as described in Section 3 are an equal number for either the office of President or the office of Vice-President, the Speaker of the House, the President of the Senate, and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court shall meet to select the President or Vice-President as needed.
I have taken the liberty of re-using similar text from other amendments in authoring this amendment and building the fallback protocol in the event of a tie or ties. (Here my Internet engineering roots show.)
Constitutional amendments over the years have been varied, but each has been adopted in the spirit of the preamble of the Constitution:
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
I offer the above in the same spirit during an era in which a Presidential and Vice-Presidential election has been contested and the public’s confidence in the electoral system continues to ebb. My hope is that this addresses one small area of lingering concern in the system we use to elect the highest executive offices of the land.
The thrusts of this amendment are multiple:
- Increase the real and perceived impact of each citizen’s vote, thus strengthening our shared investment in the republic.
- Increase the viability of third-party candidates and hopefully thereby increase the pressure on political parties to address the electorate as a whole instead of their vocal sub-minorities, which creates a political environment that tends to divide instead of unite us.
- Increase the possibility of different political parties winning the offices of President and Vice-President, for similar reasons as outlined in point 2.
- Abolish the Electoral College and the negative effects it has on campaigning in the form of outsized attention to so-called “swing states”.
- Abolish the Electoral College and the negative effects it has on the election in what I call “vote dampening”, which is when exit polling projections suppress voter turnout due to a real or perceived loss by voter’s supported candidates, and thus negatively impact local or state elections, initiatives or referendums that have plurality or threshold turnout requirements, which are usually education and safety bond measures. This effect tends to be more pronounced in the Western states.
The roots of our democracy can be directly traced back to the Magna Carta of 1297 that codified the concept that the legislation of the people was of a higher authority than the proclamations of the King or Queen, which historically were viewed as agents of divine intercession on Earth. Big stuff.
This philosophical thread was prominent in the Declaration of Independence of 1776, the Constitution of the United States of 1787, and the Bill of Rights of 1789. These three documents form the backbone of the governance and administration of the sovereign entity of the United States of America, and through the foresight of James Madison, a mechanism and right to amend the Constitution was codified in the Bill of Rights.
As a citizen of the United States of America, I am exercising this right, and I urge you to join me.
So what’s next?
The procedure is clear. In a nutshell, Congress needs to approve the proposal by a two-thirds majority and three-fourths of state legislatures need to approve it as well.
We need Congress to propose this amendment as a joint resolution. This will require sponsors in the House and the Senate. Once we have have sponsors, we will then lobby for a vote to approve the resolution by both houses with two-thirds majorities.
At the same time, we need state-by-state action to approve the amendment.
What can you do? You can start by sharing this post far and wide. A suggested Twitter hashtag is #28amendment.
Then, we’ll need help bootstrapping this process by setting up the framework to run this campaign. On the technical end this includes database, automated mailer, hosting, and bandwidth help, and on the human factors side it’s copywriting, editing, graphic design, communications, project management and the other various and sundry things needed to organize and communicate.
The SOPA/PIPA framework seemed to work pretty darn well, so if we can replicate that, all the better.
After that, it will be to contact your federal and state Representatives and Senators, and ask them to sponsor and vote for the above amendment using the communications framework yet to be built.
Ideally, we’ll be able to get the ball rolling prior to the federal election this November and all be able to enjoy watching the politicians explain their stand on this proposed amendment.