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Vice Presidents (our likely future Presidents) are appointed rather than elected, and the electoral college is obsolete.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.
Part II. Fixes
We start with Three Big Fixes — “Big” because they contribute to the solution of more than one of the Challenges enumerated in Part I:
Big Fix One: 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:
- 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.
- 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.
Big Fix Two: Restrain the 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 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. Repeal 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.
Big Fix Three: Empower Citizens to Amend the Constitution
- Citizens and states can propose a constitutional amendment. (Congress can also propose a constitutional amendment, as at present.)
- Voters have the final say: Voters must approve a Constitutional amendment in two general elections separated by another general election and a new president. In both of these amendment ratification votes, ratification requires approval 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.
Fixes to the Four Challenges from Part I:
Fix to Challenge 1: Presidential Selection Fix
- Shorten, simplify, and democratize the process of choosing Presidential candidates:
- 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).
- Tabulate primary votes by Congressional District (CD). The winner of each CD receives the “Nominating Vote” from that CD.
- Candidates who receive at least 15% of the total Nominating Votes qualify for the general election, which takes place in December.
- Hold a primary election for Vice President on National Primary Day.
- Alternative: Replace the position of Vice President with a new Chancellor of the Senate. Elect the Chancellor for a four-year term of office in even-numbered years not evenly divisible by 4 (that is, the years when we currently have mid-term elections). The Chancellor presides over the Senate, is first in line to succeed the President, and makes all judicial appointments.
- Provide for the direct election of the President and Vice President/Chancellor. 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.
- 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).
Fix to Challenge 2: U.S. Senate Fix
By constitutional amendment, reconstitute the US Senate as a representative body. Each state gets one Senator for every five seats in the House, but every state gets at least one Senator.
Fix to challenge 3: Gerrymander Fix
- Mandate a rule-governed process for drawing congressional districts without human decisions concerning any CD boundary, eliminating the gerrymander forever.
- Adopt multi-seat CD’s while using RCV.
Fix to Challenge 4: 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 shall last nine days, beginning on a Saturday, giving voters two full weekends to vote in person. Allow mail-in ballots without justification. Announce election results at the end of each day of in-person voting.
- 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.
Part III. A New Constitution
The proposed Constitution II would replace the existing 1787 Constitution. This new constitution incorporates all previous amendments to the 1787 Constitution, all the fixes proposed in Part II, and 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.
The additional challenges and fixes included in Constitution II include these:
- Congressional Rules Challenges: Congress follows rules which promote gridlock, preventing necessary legislative action. Presidents step into the resulting power vacuum, creating the imperial presidency.
- Congressional Rules Fixes
- Reform the filibuster. Reestablish 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 within a designated period.
- Give Congress both advance notice and veto power over Presidential executive orders.
- 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.
- Bill of Rights Fixes:
- 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 should be included, such as the definition of citizens, voting rights, initiative and referendum, and approval of constitutional amendments.
- Some states’ rights should also be 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.
I offer Constitution II as a starting point for debate, not as the final solution. I am raising issues that Americans should discuss; others will certainly offer different and perhaps better solutions. I only ask that we judge each proposed solution by these measures: Will it make us more free? Will it make our democracy more representative, more democratic? Will it unify us or better bring us to consensus? Will it help us govern ourselves?