THIS BOOK IN FIVE MINUTES
Full realization of democracy in America is a work in progress. We’ve come a long way, but still have a long way to go. This book discusses 21st century challenges to our democracy and proposes fixes to meet those challenges.
Part I. Challenges
- Presidential Selection Challenge: The presidential election season is way too long, the candidate selection process is overly complex and undemocratic, vice presidents (our likely future presidents) are appointed rather than elected, and the electoral college is obsolete.
- U.S. Senate Challenge: The Senate is not representative of the people. Voters in the least populous state have 66 times more power to choose their Senator than voters in the most populous state. That is hardly a democracy.
- Gerrymander Challenge: Both major parties have become quite sophisticated and effective at drawing legislative districts that unfairly favor themselves.
- Other Election System Challenges: First-Past-The-Post (FTPT) voting; the entrenched two-party system; caucuses, conventions, and closed primaries; single-member congressional districts; interminable electioneering; voting rights restrictions; unlimited money in political campaigns; and lack of transparency and financial disclosures by candidates and office holders all detract from the proper functioning of our democracy.
- Congressional Rules Challenges: Congress follows rules which promote gridlock, preventing necessary legislative action. Presidents step into the resulting power vacuum, creating the imperial presidency.
- Bill of Rights Challenges: The Bill of Rights in the Constitution is incomplete. Some implied rights lack specificity or clarity. Some citizen rights and some states’ rights are missing entirely.
Part II. Fixes
- Ranked Choice Voting (RCV)
- After selecting their 1st choice for each office, voters may also select a 2nd, 3rd, and additional choices for as many names as appear on the ballot.
- Counting of ballots depends on whether the contest has a single winner or multiple winners:
a) For single-winner-contests, if the top candidate has less than a majority of the total vote, then the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated, and votes for that candidate are reassigned to each voter’s next highest choice among the remaining candidates. This process continues until someone has a majority of the total vote.
b) For multi-winner contests, the ballot counting process insures proportional representation: That is, the majority view ends up with the most winners, but all views held by a significant minority are also represented among the winners.
- Two-Party System
- Open primaries are mandated for all federal elected offices. In an open primary, all candidates compete against each other, and all voters select their choices among all candidates for that office regardless of party affiliation. All voters can vote in every primary. Open primaries replace all closed primaries, caucuses, and conventions.
- Eliminate legal preferences for the two-party system. We propose repealing all laws which mention or favor political parties.
- Political parties will still exist. They can hold meetings, caucuses, and conventions at their own expense. They can endorse candidates and adopt platforms. But no party or group has a legal advantage over any other party or independent candidate.
- Empower Citizens to Initiate and Repeal Laws, and to Amend the Constitution
- Any citizen can initiate a petition to enact a new federal statute, repeal an existing statute, propose a constitutional amendment, or call for a constitutional convention. (Congress can also propose a constitutional amendment, as at present.)
- A Panel of Scribes edits Validated Petitions for language clarity and consistency. Sponsors have two years to gain sufficient signatures to put the measure on the ballot.
- Voters have the final say:
a) To enact a new law, repeal a law, or call for a constitutional convention: Voters must approve by a majority of all votes cast, including a majority of the votes cast in a majority of states.
b) To ratify a constitutional amendment: Voters must approve by a majority of all votes cast, including a majority of the votes cast in 60% of the states containing 60% of the U.S. population.
- Presidential Selection Fix
- Shorten, simplify, and democratize the process of choosing presidential candidates:
a) Adopt three rounds of presidential primaries, including four states in round 1 (held in August), ten states in round 2 (in September), and all other jurisdictions in round 3 (National Primary Day, in October).
b) Tabulate primary votes by Congressional District (CD). The winner of each CD receives the “Nominating Vote” from that CD.
c) Candidates who receive at least 15% of the total Nominating Votes qualify for the general election, which takes place in December.
2. Hold a primary election for vice president on National Primary Day. Alternative: Eliminate the position of vice president; instead, hold a national election for the chancellor (that is, presiding officer) of the Senate, make the chancellor first in line to succeed the president, and give the chancellor the responsibility for making all judicial appointments.
3. Provide for the direct election of the president and vice president. Adopt the Local-State-National (LSN) Voting System. Under the LSN Voting System, one electoral vote goes to the winner of each CD, one electoral vote goes to the winner of each state, and one electoral vote from each state goes to the winner of the national popular vote.
4. Implement the LSN scheme either through the LSN Interstate Compact (bypassing the electoral college without a constitutional amendment) or through a constitutional amendment (eliminating the electoral college altogether).
- U.S. Senate Fix
By Constitutional Amendment, remove Article I Section 3 of the US Constitution (which establishes the US Senate). Replace the US Senate with the Chamber of Deputies, a representative body. Each state gets one Deputy for every five seats in the House, but every state gets at least one Deputy.
- Gerrymander Fix
- Adopt multi-seat CD’s with RCV.
- Completely automate the drawing of the multi-seat CD’s based on Zip Code Tabulation Areas (ZCTA’s) from the 2010 Census.
- Other Election System Fixes
- Compress the political campaign season to run from Independence Day to the general election in December.
- Automatically register all voters at age 18. Establish a National Voter Registration Authority to maintain all voter rolls.
- All elections last nine days, ending on a Sunday, giving voters two full weekends to vote in person. Allow mail-in ballots without justification.
- Campaign finance reform: Limit who can contribute, how much, and when. Limit fund-raising by candidates. Provide public financing for all general election campaigns.
- For candidates and elected officials, require transparency and full financial disclosure, and prohibit nepotism.
- Congressional Rules Fixes
- Reform the filibuster. Establish majority rule in both chambers of Congress.
- Reform the Senate’s “advise and consent” procedure. Allow the president to make temporary appointments if the Senate fails to act expeditiously.
- Give Congress both advance notice and veto power over presidential executive orders.
- Bill of Rights Fixes: We propose 13 new constitutional amendments to complete our Bill of Rights.
- Some implied rights should be clarified, such as privacy; freedom from discrimination and torture; the right to bear arms; and the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
- Some citizen rights missing from the Constitution need to be defined or specified, such as the definition of citizens, voting rights, initiative and referendum, and approval of constitutional amendments.
- Some states’ rights also need to be clarified or included, such as the right of states to work in concert with each other without ceding power to the federal government, a limited right of states to supersede federal law, and the right to secede.
Part III. A New Constitution
We propose consideration of Constitution II, replacing the existing 1787 Constitution. This new constitution incorporates all previous amendments to the 1787 Constitution, all the fixes proposed in Part II, and several additional fixes that ought to be considered as long as we are rewriting the whole document. Part III also includes a procedure for ratification and transitioning to Constitution II.