All posts by 21Blogger

Dr. Bob Spear is a semi-retired professor from Prince George's Community College, Maryland, where he has been a member of the faculty since 1981. He holds a BA from Notre Dame, Master of Science in Foreign Service from Georgetown, and a doctorate in education from George Mason University.

Appendix 5. Three-Seat CD’s in Minnesota

Here is a map of all Minnesota counties and a table of county populations according to the 2010 Census. Minnesota had a total population of 5,303,925 and was apportioned 8 seats in the House of Representatives, which we will partition into three CD’s: Two CD’s each containing 3 seats plus one CD containing 2 seats. The AVG population per House seat is 662,991, so the population for each 3-seat CD should be 1,988,972, and the population for the one 2-sea CD should be 1,325,981.

 

 

County 2101 Pop
Aitkin MN 16202
Anoka MN 330844
Becker MN 32504
Beltrami MN 44442
Benton MN 38451
Big Stone MN 5269
Blue Earth MN 64013
Brown MN 25893
Carlton MN 35386
Carver MN 91042
Cass MN 28567
Chippewa MN 12441
Chisago MN 53887
Clay MN 58999
Clearwater MN 8695
Cook MN 5176
Cottonwood MN 11687
Crow Wing MN 62500
Dakota MN 398552
Dodge MN 20087
Douglas MN 36009
Faribault MN 14553
Fillmore MN 20866
Freeborn MN 31255
Goodhue MN 46183
Grant MN 6018
Hennepin MN 1152425
Houston MN 19027
Hubbard MN 20428
Isanti MN 37816
Itasca MN 45058
Jackson MN 10266
Kanabec MN 16239
Kandiyohi MN 42239
Kittson MN 4552
Koochiching MN 13311
Lac qui Parle MN 7259
Lake MN 10866
Lake of the Woods 4045
Le Sueur MN 27703
Lincoln MN 5896
Lyon MN 25857
McLeod MN 36651
Mahnomen MN 5413
Marshall MN 9439
Martin MN 20840
Meeker MN 23300
Mille Lacs MN 26097
Morrison MN 33198
Mower MN 39163
Murray MN 8725
Nicollet MN 32727
Nobles MN 21378
Norman MN 6852
Olmsted MN 144248
Otter Tail MN 57303
Pennington MN 13930
Pine MN 29750
Pipestone MN 9596
Polk MN 31600
Pope MN 10995
Ramsey MN 508640
Red Lake MN 4089
Redwood MN 16059
Renville MN 15730
Rice MN 64142
Rock MN 9687
Roseau MN 15629
St. Louis MN 200226
Scott MN 129928
Sherburne MN 88499
Sibley MN 15226
Stearns MN 150642
Steele MN 36576
Stevens MN 9726
Swift MN 9783
Todd MN 24895
Traverse MN 3558
Wabasha MN 21676
Wadena MN 13843
Waseca MN 19136
Washington MN 238136
Watonwan MN 11211
Wilkin MN 6576
Winona MN 51461
Wright MN 124700
Yellow Medicine 10438

 

 

Minnesota CD 1 will elect 3 House members. Here is the Reference Line and Scan Line:

 

Dragging the Scan Line from northwest to southeast, we add these counties to CD 1 as shown in this table:

CD’s Drawn by Scanning Counties -Three Seats per CD – Minnesota
Total MN 2010 census population = 5,303,925. MN has 8 CD’s.
AVG population per Seat = 662,991. Pop per 3-Seat CD =  1,988,972. Pop in 2-seat CD 1,325,981.
Master Congressional District Table
CD’s Drawn by Scanning Counties
CD# County County Population Running Aggregates
Available Assigned to this CD LAST/ CONT Left Over State Total This CD Total Target Diff
1 Previous State Total and New Target for This CD 0 0 1988972 1988972
1 Kittson MN 4552 4552 4552 4552 1988972 1984420
1 Marshall MN 9439 9439 13991 13991 1988972 1974981
1 Roseau MN 15629 15629 29620 29620 1988972 1959352
1 Polk MN 31600 31600 61220 61220 1988972 1927752
1 Pennington MN 13930 13930 75150 75150 1988972 1913822
1 Lake of the Woods 4045 4045 79195 79195 1988972 1909777
1 Beltrami MN 44442 44442 123637 123637 1988972 1865335
1 Red Lake MN 4089 4089 127726 127726 1988972 1861246
1 Norman MN 6852 6852 134578 134578 1988972 1854394
1 Koochiching MN 13311 13311 147889 147889 1988972 1841083
1 Clearwater MN 8695 8695 156584 156584 1988972 1832388
1 Clay MN 58999 58999 215583 215583 1988972 1773389
1 Mahnomen MN 5413 5413 220996 220996 1988972 1767976
1 Becker MN 32504 32504 253500 253500 1988972 1735472
1 Wilkin MN 6576 6576 260076 260076 1988972 1728896
1 Itasca MN 45058 45058 305134 305134 1988972 1683838
1 St. Louis MN 200226 200226 505360 505360 1988972 1483612
1 Hubbard MN 20428 20428 525788 525788 1988972 1463184
1 Otter Tail MN 57303 57303 583091 583091 1988972 1405881
1 Cass MN 28567 28567 611658 611658 1988972 1377314
1 Wadena MN 13843 13843 625501 625501 1988972 1363471
1 Traverse MN 3558 3558 629059 629059 1988972 1359913
1 Grant MN 6018 6018 635077 635077 1988972 1353895
1 Big Stone MN 5269 5269 640346 640346 1988972 1348626
1 Lake MN 10866 10866 651212 651212 1988972 1337760
1 Douglas MN 36009 36009 687221 687221 1988972 1301751
1 Crow Wing MN 62500 62500 749721 749721 1988972 1239251
1 Todd MN 24895 24895 774616 774616 1988972 1214356
1 Stevens MN 9726 9726 784342 784342 1988972 1204630
1 Aitkin MN 16202 16202 800544 800544 1988972 1188428
1 Cook MN 5176 5176 805720 805720 1988972 1183252
1 Pope MN 10995 10995 816715 816715 1988972 1172257
1 Morrison MN 33198 33198 849913 849913 1988972 1139059
1 Swift MN 9783 9783 859696 859696 1988972 1129276
1 Lac qui Parle MN 7259 7259 866955 866955 1988972 1122017
1 Stearns MN 150642 150642 1017597 1017597 1988972 971375
1 Carlton MN 35386 35386 1052983 1052983 1988972 935989
1 Chippewa MN 12441 12441 1065424 1065424 1988972 923548
1 Mille Lacs MN 26097 26097 1091521 1091521 1988972 897451
1 Yellow Medicine 10438 10438 1101959 1101959 1988972 887013
1 Kandiyohi MN 42239 42239 1144198 1144198 1988972 844774
1 Benton MN 38451 38451 1182649 1182649 1988972 806323
1 Lincoln MN 5896 5896 1188545 1188545 1988972 800427
1 Pine MN 29750 29750 1218295 1218295 1988972 770677
1 Kanabec MN 16239 16239 1234534 1234534 1988972 754438
1 Lyon MN 25857 25857 1260391 1260391 1988972 728581
1 Meeker MN 23300 23300 1283691 1283691 1988972 705281
1 Renville MN 15730 15730 1299421 1299421 1988972 689551
1 Sherburne MN 88499 88499 1387920 1387920 1988972 601052
1 Pipestone MN 9596 9596 1397516 1397516 1988972 591456
1 Isanti MN 37816 37816 1435332 1435332 1988972 553640
1 Wright MN 124700 124700 1560032 1560032 1988972 428940
1 Redwood MN 16059 16059 1576091 1576091 1988972 412881
1 Murray MN 8725 8725 1584816 1584816 1988972 404156
1 Chisago MN 53887 53887 1638703 1638703 1988972 350269
1 McLeod MN 36651 36651 1675354 1675354 1988972 313618
1 Rock MN 9687 9687 1685041 1685041 1988972 303931
1 Anoka MN 330844 303931 LAST 26913 1988972 1988972 1988972 0

 

Minnesota’s completed CD 1:

 

Next we draw a new Reference Line and Scan Line for CD 2:

 

 

The table for CD 2:

Master Congressional District Table
CD’s Drawn by Scanning Counties
CD# County County Population Running Aggregates
Available Assigned to this CD LAST/ CONT Left Over State Total This CD Total Target Diff
2 Previous State Total and New Target for This CD 1988972 0 3977944 1988972
2 Nobles MN 21378 21378 2010350 21378 3977944 1967594
2 Jackson MN 10266 10266 2020616 31644 3977944 1957328
2 Cottonwood MN 11687 11687 2032303 43331 3977944 1945641
2 Brown MN 25893 25893 2058196 69224 3977944 1919748
2 Martin MN 20840 20840 2079036 90064 3977944 1898908
2 Watonwan MN 11211 11211 2090247 101275 3977944 1887697
2 Nicollet MN 32727 32727 2122974 134002 3977944 1854970
2 Sibley MN 15226 15226 2138200 149228 3977944 1839744
2 Blue Earth MN 64013 64013 2202213 213241 3977944 1775731
2 Faribault MN 14553 14553 2216766 227794 3977944 1761178
2 Le Sueur MN 27703 27703 2244469 255497 3977944 1733475
2 Carver MN 91042 91042 2335511 346539 3977944 1642433
2 Scott MN 129928 129928 2465439 476467 3977944 1512505
2 Waseca MN 19136 19136 2484575 495603 3977944 1493369
2 Freeborn MN 31255 31255 2515830 526858 3977944 1462114
2 Hennepin MN 1152425 1152425 3668255 1679283 3977944 309689
2 Rice MN 64142 64142 3732397 1743425 3977944 245547
2 Steele MN 36576 36576 3768973 1780001 3977944 208971
2 Dakota MN 398552 208971 LAST 189581 3977944 1988972 3977944 0

 

Any populations left over after completing CD’s 1 and 2 must be assigned to CD 3:

 

Master Congressional District Table
CD’s Drawn by Scanning Counties
CD# County County Population Running Aggregates
Available Assigned to this CD LAST/ CONT Left Over State Total This CD Total Target Diff
3 Previous State Total and New Target for This CD 3977944 0 5303925 1325981
3 Anoka MN 26913 26913 CONT 0 4004857 26913 5303925 1299068
3 Dakota MN 189581 189581 CONT 0 4194438 216494 5303925 1109487
3 Dodge MN 20087 20087 4214525 236581 5303925 1089400
3 Fillmore MN 20866 20866 4235391 257447 5303925 1068534
3 Goodhue MN 46183 46183 4281574 303630 5303925 1022351
3 Houston MN 19027 19027 4300601 322657 5303925 1003324
3 Mower MN 39163 39163 4339764 361820 5303925 964161
3 Olmsted MN 144248 144248 4484012 506068 5303925 819913
3 Ramsey MN 508640 508640 4992652 1014708 5303925 311273
3 Wabasha MN 21676 21676 5014328 1036384 5303925 289597
3 Washington 238136 238136 5252464 1274520 5303925 51461
3 Winona MN 51461 51461 5303925 1325981 5303925 0

 

The completed map for all three Minnesota CD’s looks like this:

 

Appendix 4. Three-Seat CD’s in Louisiana

Here is a map of all Louisiana parishes and a table of parish populations according to the 2010 Census. Louisiana had a total population of 4,533,372 and was apportioned 6 seats in the House of Representatives, which we will partition into two CD’s each containing 3 seats. The AVG population per House seat is 755,562, so the population for each CD should be 2,266,686.

 

 

Parish 2010 Pop
Acadia Parish LA 61773
Allen Parish LA 25764
Ascension Parish LA 107215
Assumption Parish LA 23421
Avoyelles Parish LA 42073
Beauregard Parish LA 35654
Bienville Parish LA 14353
Bossier Parish LA 116979
Caddo Parish LA 254969
Calcasieu Parish LA 192768
Caldwell Parish LA 10132
Cameron Parish LA 6839
Catahoula Parish LA 10407
Claiborne Parish LA 17195
Concordia Parish LA 20822
De Soto Parish LA 26656
East Baton Rouge Parish LA 440171
East Carroll Parish LA 7759
East Feliciana Parish LA 20267
Evangeline Parish LA 33984
Franklin Parish LA 20767
Grant Parish LA 22309
Iberia Parish LA 73240
Iberville Parish LA 33387
Jackson Parish LA 16274
Jefferson Parish LA 432552
Jefferson Davis Parish LA 31594
Lafayette Parish LA 221578
Lafourche Parish LA 96318
La Salle Parish LA 14890
Lincoln Parish LA 46735
Livingston Parish LA 128026
Madison Parish LA 12093
Morehouse Parish LA 27979
Natchitoches Parish LA 39566
Orleans Parish LA 343829
Ouachita Parish LA 153720
Plaquemines Parish LA 23042
Pointe Coupee Parish LA 22802
Rapides Parish LA 131613
Red River Parish LA 9091
Richland Parish LA 20725
Sabine Parish LA 24233
St. Bernard Parish LA 35897
St. Charles Parish LA 52780
St. Helena Parish LA 11203
St. James Parish LA 22102
St. John the Baptist Parish LA 45924
St. Landry Parish LA 83384
St. Martin Parish LA 52160
St. Mary Parish LA 54650
St. Tammany Parish LA 233740
Tangipahoa Parish LA 121097
Tensas Parish LA 5252
Terrebonne Parish LA 111860
Union Parish LA 22721
Vermilion Parish LA 57999
Vernon Parish LA 52334
Washington Parish LA 47168
Webster Parish LA 41207
West Baton Rouge Parish LA 23788
West Carroll Parish LA 11604
West Feliciana Parish LA 15625
Winn Parish LA 15313

 

 

Louisiana CD 1 will elect 3 House members. Here is the Reference Line and Scan Line:

 

 

Dragging the Scan Line from northwest to southeast, we add these parishes to CD 1 as shown in this table:

 

CD’s Drawn by Scanning Parishes -Three Seats per CD – Louisiana
Total LA 2010 census population = 4533372. LA has 6 CD’s.
AVG population per Seat = 755562. Pop per 3-Seat CD =  2266686
Master Congressional District Table
CD’s Drawn by Scanning Parishes
CD# Parish Parish Population Running Aggregates  
Available Assigned to this CD LAST/ CONT Left Over State Total This CD Total Target Diff  
1 Previous State Total and New Target for This CD 0 0 2266686 2266686
1 Caddo 254969 254969 254969 254969 2266686 2011717  
1 Bossier 116979 116979 371948 371948 2266686 1894738  
1 Webster 41207 41207 413155 413155 2266686 1853531  
1 De Soto 26656 26656 439811 439811 2266686 1826875  
1 Claiborne 17195 17195 457006 457006 2266686 1809680  
1 Red River 9091 9091 466097 466097 2266686 1800589  
1 Bienville 14353 14353 480450 480450 2266686 1786236  
1 Sabine 24233 24233 504683 504683 2266686 1762003  
1 Lincoln 46735 46735 551418 551418 2266686 1715268  
1 Union 22721 22721 574139 574139 2266686 1692547  
1 Natchitoches 39566 39566 613705 613705 2266686 1652981  
1 Jackson 16274 16274 629979 629979 2266686 1636707  
1 Winn 15313 15313 645292 645292 2266686 1621394  
1 Ouachita 153720 153720 799012 799012 2266686 1467674  
1 Vernon 52334 52334 851346 851346 2266686 1415340  
1 Grant 22309 22309 873655 873655 2266686 1393031  
1 Caldwell 10132 10132 883787 883787 2266686 1382899  
1 Richland 20725 20725 904512 904512 2266686 1362174  
1 West Carroll 11604 11604 916116 916116 2266686 1350570  
1 Morehouse 27979 27979 944095 944095 2266686 1322591
1 Beauregard 35654 35654 979749 979749 2266686 1286937
1 Rapides 131613 131613 1111362 1111362 2266686 1155324
1 La Salle 14890 14890 1126252 1126252 2266686 1140434
1 Calcaseiu 192768 192768 1319020 1319020 2266686 947666
1 East Carroll 7759 7759 1326779 1326779 2266686 939907
1 Franklin 20767 20767 1347546 1347546 2266686 919140
1 Madison 12093 12093 1359639 1359639 2266686 907047
1 Catahoula 10407 10407 1370046 1370046 2266686 896640
1 Allen 25764 25764 1395810 1395810 2266686 870876
1 Cameron 6839 6839 1402649 1402649 2266686 864037
1 Tensas 5252 5252 1407901 1407901 2266686 858785
1 Jefferson Davis 31594 31594 1439495 1439495 2266686 827191
1 Avoyelles 42073 42073 1481568 1481568 2266686 785118
1 Evangeline 33984 33984 1515552 1515552 2266686 751134
1 Concordia 20822 20822 1536374 1536374 2266686 730312
1 Acadia 61773 61773 1598147 1598147 2266686 668539
1 St. Landry 83384 83384 1681531 1681531 2266686 585155
1 Vermilion 57999 57999 1739530 1739530 2266686 527156
1 West Feliciana 15625 15625 1755155 1755155 2266686 511531
1 Pointe Coupee 22802 22802 1777957 1777957 2266686 488729
1 Lafayette 221578 221578 1999535 1999535 2266686 267151
1 St. Martin 52160 52160 2051695 2051695 2266686 214991
1 Iberville 33387 33387 2085082 2085082 2266686 181604
1 East Feliciana 20267 20267 2105349 2105349 2266686 161337
1 Iberia 73240 73240 2178589 2178589 2266686 88097
1 West Baton Rouge 23788 23788 2202377 2202377 2266686 64309
1 East Baton Rouge 440171 64309 LAST 375862 2266686 2266686 2266686 0

 

Because Louisiana has only two 3-seat CD’s, all the remaining counties belong to CD 2, so we can list those counties and populations and then draw one map of the two CD’s in the whole state:

 

Master Congressional District Table
CD’s Drawn by Scanning Parishes
CD# Parish Parish Population Running Aggregates
Available Assigned to this CD LAST/ CONT Left Over State Total This CD Total Target Diff
2 Previous State Total and New Target for This CD 2266686 0 4533372 2266686
2 East Baton Rouge 375862 375862 CONT 0 2642548 2642548 4533372 1890824
2 Ascension 107215 107215 2749763 2749763 4533372 1783609
2 Assumption 23421 23421 2773184 2773184 4533372 1760188
2 Jefferson 432552 432552 3205736 3205736 4533372 1327636
2 Lafourche 96318 96318 3302054 3302054 4533372 1231318
2 Livingston 128026 128026 3430080 3430080 4533372 1103292
2 Orleans 343829 343829 3773909 3773909 4533372 759463
2 Plaquemines 23042 23042 3796951 3796951 4533372 736421
2 St. Bernard 35897 35897 3832848 3832848 4533372 700524
2 St. Charles 52780 52780 3885628 3885628 4533372 647744
2 St. Helena 11203 11203 3896831 3896831 4533372 636541
2 St. James 22102 22102 3918933 3918933 4533372 614439
2 St. John the Baptist 45924 45924 3964857 3964857 4533372 568515
2 St. Mary 54650 54650 4019507 4019507 4533372 513865
2 St. Tammany 233740 233740 4253247 4253247 4533372 280125
2 Tangipahoa 121097 121097 4374344 4374344 4533372 159028
2 Terrebonne 111860 111860 4486204 4486204 4533372 47168
2 Washington 47168 47168 4533372 4533372 4533372 0

 

Louisiana’s completed CD’s, based on 3-seat CD’s:

 

Appendix 3. The Rules in Excruciating Detail

Try following these step-by-step procedures for drawing congressional districts for your home state. Better yet, write the computer program to do it! (A programmer familiar with Geographical Information System applications software could create it.)

General Principles

  • Equal population among congressional districts (CD’s)
  • Geographic proximity
  • A rule-determined process
  • The same process in every state
  • No human-decision-making

Summary Procedures

Draw each congressional district (CD) following these steps:

  1. Draw a Reference Line connecting the two most widely separated points on a map of the parts of the state not yet assigned to a CD.
  2. Select the Starting Point and End Point along this Reference Line.
  3. Draw the Scan Line perpendicular to the Reference Line and through the Starting Point.
  4. Drag the Scan Line along the Reference Line. As the Scan Line touches a county, add that county to the CD. Stop adding counties when one more county (called LAST County) would make the CD’s population too large.
  5. Scan the ZCTA’s in LAST County using the same Scan Line, adding ZCTA’s to the CD until the target population is reached.

Detailed Procedures

Obtain your state’s source data:

State summary data

  • Download the state’s total population according to the 2010 Census;
  • Find the Number (N) of House seats apportioned to this state. Congressional districts will be numbered consecutively as CD 1, CD 2, CD 3, …, CD N-1, CD N; and
  • Calculate the Average population per House seat (AVG), that is, total population divided by N.

County data

  • Download the list of the state’s counties and county populations according to the 2010 Census; and
  • Obtain a map of the state’s counties showing county boundaries as of the 2010 Census.

ZCTA data

  • Download the list of the state’s ZCTA’s and ZCTA populations according to the 2010 Census; and
  • Obtain a map of the state’s 2010 ZCTA’s, showing both county as well as ZCTA boundaries.

 

Replicate the following steps for each congressional district from CD 1 up to CD N-1:

Draw the Reference Line

Draw a Reference Line between the two most widely separated points within the portion of the state not yet assigned to a congressional district. (Initially, the unassigned portion is the entire state.)

If two or more candidate lines are tied as longest, then the Reference Line is the one whose slope is closest to a northwest to southeast diagonal. If two candidate lines are still tied (both are closest to a northwest to southeast diagonal), then the Reference Line is the candidate line whose northernmost point is farthest to the north; and, if two lines are still tied (that is, they have the same northernmost point), then the Reference Line is the candidate line whose westernmost point is farthest to the west.

Select the Starting Point

After drawing the Reference Line, we need to identify which end of the Reference Line is the Starting Point and which is the End Point. Here is the rule:

Starting Point rule 1: If just one end of the Reference Line lies in a county that abuts an area of the state previously assigned to a congressional district, then that end of the Reference Line is the Starting Point. (The purpose here is to continue building CD’s across the state, rather than jumping from one end of the state to the other. This rule also makes it more likely that a partial county left over from constructing a previous CD will be picked up soon in an ensuing CD, rather than left dangling at the end of the process. Without this rule, the last CD in the state might end up with a whole collection of partial counties.)

 

Starting Point rule 2: If rule 1 does not apply, choose the northwest end as the Starting Point. If the northernmost point is not also the westernmost point, then:

if the slope is more vertical than horizontal, choose the northernmost point; else

choose the westernmost point.

Use this guide to implement rule 2: Copy the slope of the Reference Line through the center of this circle. The Starting Point is that point on the half of the circle colored red or blue and comprising its western, northwestern, and northern sectors:

 

 

End Point, Scan Line, and Scanning

The End Point on the Reference Line is at the opposite end from the Starting Point. The Scan Line is a line perpendicular to the Reference Line and passing through the Starting Point. Scanning occurs by dragging the Scan Line from the Starting Point towards the End Point, while keeping the Scan Line perpendicular to the Reference Line.

Build the Congressional District

Addition of Counties

When the Scan Line first touches a county not yet assigned to a CD (or a portion of a county left over from a previously-assigned CD), then we add that entire county or county portion to the current CD, including the county’s land mass and population. The process of adding a county while dragging the Scan Line across the state continues until the addition of the next county would cause the target population to be exceeded.

The target population is defined as the total population which should be assigned to all CD’s in the state up to and including the current CD. This definition is preferable to simply defining target as AVG (the average population per seat in the state). By defining target to include all CD’s constructed so far, the excess or shortage of population in each CD will be self-corrected in subsequent CD’s. If we use AVG as the target for each CD, then, in a given state, every CD from CD 1 to CD N-1 might end up a little over (or a little under) AVG, meaning that the final CD in the state will miss AVG by a whole lot.

The county that would cause the target to be exceeded is not added to the current CD. That county is designated as LAST County.

Note that this method of constructing CD’s will result in a small number of CD’s with non-contiguous areas.

LAST County – Scanning ZCTA’s

To complete the current CD, we scan LAST County using the map of ZCTA’s for that county along with population data for all ZCTA’s in LAST County. We add ZCTA’s to the current CD until the addition of one more ZCTA would cause the target population to be exceeded. This Last ZCTA in LAST County is then either added or not added to the current CD, depending on whether the addition of this ZCTA would or would not bring the aggregate population closer to target.

Last ZCTA in LAST County

Before concluding that the CD is now complete, we must insure that the total CD population is within 5% (plus or minus) of AVG. In the most unlikely event that this criterion is not met, we split the Last ZCTA into two parts by census tracts, which contain ~4000 people per tract. Just use the same Scan Line to scan the census tracts within the Last ZCTA, and add census tracts until AVG is reached.

Last Congressional District in a State (CD N)

When we have drawn all CD’s in a state save one, then all remaining land area and population must comprise the final CD. You will not need a Reference Line, Scan Line, Starting Point, or End Point.

Resources and Tools

You can obtain county and ZCTA population data tables for any state from the Missouri Census Data Center. Look for county and ZCTA boundary maps from free Internet sources or from your state’s planning department. To manually construct the CD’s in any state, use a spreadsheet program – I used Excel for the examples shown here

Data source: Missouri Census Data Center

From the Missouri Census Data Center you can obtain the necessary 2010 Census population data for any state, including the total state population, the list of counties and population of each county, and the list of ZCTA’s sorted by county and showing the population of each ZCTA. Here is how you get that data:

The Missouri Census Data Center has created a series of data products using 2010 Census data from the U.S. Census Bureau. One of these products is called the Geographic Correspondence Engine. This example shows you how to get the county and ZCTA populations for any state.

  1. Visit http://mcdc.missouri.edu/websas/geocorr14.html
  2. Select a state to process. (In this example, I used my home state of Maryland.)
  3. In both the SOURCE (left-hand) and the TARGET (right-hand) Geocodes columns, select “County 2010” and “5-digit ZIP/ZCTA: Zip Census Tab Area 2010”. (You do this in each column by clicking “County 2010” and then Ctrl-Click “5-digit ZIP/ZCTA: Zip Census Tab Area 2010”.) See Fig. 1.

 

 

Figure 1, showing the geocorr14 web page, and having selected Maryland and the Source and the Target Geocodes.

 

  1. Scroll down below the two geocode columns. Select “Population (2010 Census)” as the Weighting Variable.
  2. Below the list of Weighting Variables, click the “Run Request” button. See Fig. 2.

 

Figure 2, showing the geocorr14 web page, with the weighting variable selected and with the Run Request button beneath the Weighting Variables list.

 

  1. When processing is complete, the output screen shows that two files have been created, a Listing (report format) and a Comma Delimited (“csv”) file. See Fig. 3

 

Figure 3, showing the geocorr14 processing statistics and results

 

  1. Click on Listing (report format). This displays the extracted data. The output is sorted by county and, within county, by ZCTA. The output appears in six columns. See Fig. 4.

 

Figure 4, showing the first page of the output listing, saved as a PDF.

 

  1. The six columns in the report are as follows:
    1. County: This number uniquely identifies every county and county-like entity in the United States. (A county-like entity is a place that is not a county but is treated as a county for census purposes. This includes cities that are not part of any county, such as the City of Baltimore, Maryland, or Alexandria, Virginia.) We will not need this numeric identifier for our purposes, and so we will delete this column.
    2. Cntyname: This is the name of the county and state. Both the county and state names are needed, along with the 5-digit ZCTA, to uniquely identify a ZCTA. This is because ZCTA’s are based on 5-digit zip codes, which the US Postal Service created to group mail delivery routes around a post office. Political subdivisions were not part of the equation. Therefore, a single zip code sometimes serves people in more than one county or more than one state. In creating Zip Code Tabulation Areas (ZCTA’s) from 5-digit zip codes, the Census Bureau drew boundaries that do respect county and state borders. Hence, a given 5-digit ZCTA in County A may be repeated in County B or in an adjoining state. The Census Bureau counted the population in each jurisdiction.
    3. ZIP Census Tabulation Area: The 5-digit ZCTA will be the basis for portioning LAST County into the ZCTA’s assigned to the current CD and the ZCTA’s Left Over for later assignment to a subsequent CD. Very importantly, we propose using the 2010 ZCTA’s in perpetuity, precisely because they are forever fixed and no one can manipulate them. In each congressional district, 5-digit ZIP Code Tabulation Areas, or ZCTA’s, will be the basis for subdividing LAST County.
    4. Zipname: This is the name of the place (city or town) associated with this ZCTA. We do not need this information for our purposes, so we will delete this column.
    5. Total Pop. 2010 Census: This is the population of the ZCTA according to the 2010 Census. If this proposal is adopted, the Census Bureau will be mandated to calculate the population of each 2010 ZCTA following each succeeding decennial census.
    6. ZCTA5 to ZCTA5 Allocation Factor: Since ZCTA5 was both a Source and a Target Geocode, this factor is always 1. We can eliminate this column.
  2. The other output file, geocorr14.csv, is easily adapted to processing either in Excel or in a computer program. At this point, create a folder on your computer to hold the files related to redistricting for your selected state. I called my sample folder “Maryland Redistricting”. Download geocorr14.csv to this folder, and rename the file so that it includes the state abbreviation and ZCTAs (“XX ZCTAs.csv”). In my sample, the filename is “MD ZCTAs.csv”. This is the Source File for your state’s ZCTA’s.

Now follow the same procedure to get the 2010 population data for each county in your selected state. The only differences are these:

  • In step 3, select only “County 2010” as the SOURCE (left column) and TARGET (right column).
  • The output listing looks like this. As before, we will delete the first column (county numeric identifier) and last column (county to county allocation factor):
  • Save the output file grocorr14.csv to your computer. Then rename the file to include the state abbreviation and “counties”. In my case, the filename is “MD Counties.csv”.

 

Master Congressional District Workbook for <state name> using Excel

You can find the Excel Workbooks used for the Maryland and Pennsylvania examples in this paper at https://drive.google.com/file/d/1SVxPTHC7Xhe6QmzFCQFErpOh590T-kC8/view?usp=sharing

https://drive.google.com/file/d/11TTvxavnVYomV7-JGP8cOmyH3JDiOxE2/view?usp=sharing

Here are instructions and definitions for building an Excel Workbook for any state.

Create the Excel Workbook and Load Source Data

Open a new Excel workbook. Save the workbook (that is, the Excel file) as “<state abbreviation> Master CDs.xlsx”. My state table for Maryland is “MD Master CDs.xlsx”. Within this workbook, create and name three spreadsheets:

  • County Pop: This spreadsheet contains an alphabetical list of the counties in the target state along with the population of each county. As you assign counties to a CD, you will update this spreadsheet to show which CD’s receive the population of each county. Setup the headers like this (a few sample data rows are also included here):
Maryland Population by County CD Assignments
County Population CD # Assigned Population % Used Left Over
Allegany MD 75087 1
Anne Arundel MD 537656 7 – LAST 328266 61% 209390
    8 – CONT 209390 39% 0
Baltimore County MD 805029 2 – LAST 721694 90% 83335
    5 – CONT 83335 10% 0

 

Populate columns A and B of this spreadsheet with the county population data from the Missouri Census Data Center, contained in your file “<state> County.csv”. You will fill out columns C thru F later as you build the CD’s. The CD# field (column C) will identify the CD number alone if the entire county is assigned to one CD, in which case the Assigned Population (column D), % Used (column E), and Left Over (column F) fields are left blank. If you assign only a portion of the county’s population to a CD, then the CD# + “LAST” or “CONT” or “BOTH” will appear in column C, and you will follow instructions below to fill out columns D, E, and F.

  • ZCTA Pop: This spreadsheet contains the list of ZCTA’s in the state, sorted by county and then by ZCTA within county. You will use this spreadsheet as the source for the list of ZCTA’s in LAST County assigned to the current CD, and for the list of left-over ZCTA’s assigned to one or more subsequent districts. Column headers and sample data rows:
MD ZCTA’s by County Partial County Assignments
county zcta population CD# L/C/B Total
Montgomery MD 20814 27642 1 LAST 28409
Montgomery MD 20815 29082 1 LAST 57491
Montgomery MD 20816 16208 1 LAST 73699

 

Populate columns A, B, and C of this spreadsheet with the ZCTA population data from the Missouri Census Data Center, contained in your file “<state> ZCTAs.csv”. You will fill out columns D, E, and F later as you build the CD’s; you will only fill these columns for a county that you partition into into LAST, (maybe BOTH), and CONTinued portions.

  • Master CD Table: This is the master table for building congressional districts. Set this table up as shown below:
CD’s Drawn by Scanning Counties (LAST County by ZCTA’s) – Maryland
Total MD 2010 census population = 5773552. MD has 8 CD’s. AVG population per CD = 721694.
Master Congressional District Table
CD’s Drawn by Scanning Counties
CD# County County Population Running Aggregates
Available Assigned to this CD L/C/B % Used Left Over State Total This CD Total Target Diff
A B C D E F G H I J K
1 Previous State total and New Target for this CD 0 0 721694 721694
1 Garrett 30097 30097 30097 30097 721694 691597
1 Allegany 75087 75087 105184 105184 721694 616510
1 Washington 147430 147430 252614 252614 721694 469080

 

Column Definitions and Instructions:

Header Row 2: Enter the state population and number of CD’s. Calculate and enter the AVG (average) population per House seat.

CD# (Column A): Enter the number of the congressional district you are building. Start by entering 1 in the CD# field in the first data row. Enter a formula in the second data row to copy the contents from the first data row, and populate this formula to the rest of the data rows. In this way, every data row will be assigned to the same CD# as the row above. They will all be 1 until you enter 2, after which all remaining rows will become 2 until you change  a CD to 3. As you drag the scan line across the state, you will add counties to the current CD. You will continue to add counties to the current CD until the addition of one more county would cause the Running Aggregate – State Total to exceed the Running Aggregate – Total Target.

County (Column B): Enter the name of the county you are adding to the CD# shown in column A.

County Population (Columns C through G): These columns contain data concerning the population of the county shown in column B.

County Population – Available (Column C): Enter the population of this county available for assignment. The first time you enter a county, this will be the population of the entire county taken from the County Pop spreadsheet. If you previously assigned part of a county to another CD, then the amount entered here is taken from the Left Over field (Column F) of the County Pop spreadsheet.

County Population – Assigned to this CD (Column D): Add each county to the current CD with the assumption that the entire available population of that county will be assigned to the current CD. Ultimately this will not be the case, because Diff (column K) will become negative and the current county will become LAST County for the current CD. Therefore, the default formula for column D is to copy the population from column C. Enter a formula in column D in the first data row that copies the contents from column C. Populate this formula to the rest of column D.

When Diff becomes negative, delete the formula in column D, because you will assign only a portion of the available county population to the current CD. Instead, refer to the instructions below for “LAST/BOTH County”.

County Population – L/C/B (that is, LAST/CONT/BOTH) (Column E): If you are assigning the entire county population to this CD, then leave columns E, F, and G blank. If you are assigning a portion of a county’s population to this CD, then you have three possibilities:

    • “LAST”: This is LAST County for the current CD, and you have not previously assigned this county as LAST County for an earlier CD: Enter “LAST” in column E. Follow the instructions below for “LAST/BOTH County” to fill columns F and G.
    • “CONT”: This county was partially assigned previously to another CD, and all of its Left Over population is now being assigned to the current CD: Enter “CONT” (meaning “CONTinued”) in column E, and follow the instructions below for “CONT County” to fill columns F and G.
    • “BOTH”: This county is both LAST County for the current CD and CONTinued from a previous CD. Enter “BOTH” in column E. Follow the instructions below for “LAST/BOTH County” to fill columns F and G.

County Population – % Used (column F) and County Population Left Over (column G): See the instructions below for “LAST/BOTH County” and for “CONT County”.

Running Aggregates (Columns H through K): These columns are all based on calculations derived from information previously entered. You will enter a formula in the top row of each field and populate that formula to the rest of the table.

Running Aggregates – State Total (Column H): The running total of the state’s population that has been assigned to all congressional districts so far. The formula for the current row is the sum of the previous total (column H of the previous row) plus the population assigned in the current row (column D of the current row). Populate this formula to the rest of column H.

Running Aggregates – This CD (Column I): The running total of the population assigned to the current congressional district. The formula for the current row is the sum of the previous total (column I of the previous row) plus the population assigned on the current row (column D of the current row). Populate this formula to the rest of column I. (Note that, for CD# 1, the data displayed in columns H and I will be the same.)

Total Target (Column J): This column displays the total state population which should be assigned to all CD’s when the current CD is complete. Enter a formula to calculate Total Target, defined as AVG * CD# (column A). Populate this formula to the entire column.

Note that the Total Target for each congressional district is the aggregate target for all congressional districts completed so far, rather than just the AVG for one congressional district. This technique insures that the accumulated differences from one congressional district to the next tend to even out. Initially, every row will display the target for CD 1. However, when the CD# (column A) changes to 2, the figure in the Total Target field (column J) will automatically update.

Difference (Diff) (Column K): This column displays the population still needed to complete the current CD, defined as Total Target (Column J) less the running aggregate for the state (Column H). In the first data row, insert a formula to calculate this Difference. Then populate that formula to the entire column.

As you begin building each CD, Difference is large, meaning a large population still needs to be assigned to complete the current CD. As you assign counties to the current CD, Difference decreases. Finally, Difference becomes negative. At that point, the county named in column B is LAST County for the current CD. If LAST County was also LAST County for a previous CD, then that county is both LAST County for the current CD and CONTinued from a previous CD, and so it is designated here as BOTH. See the instructions below for LAST/BOTH County.

“LAST/BOTH COUNTY” instructions. Follow these instructions if you have entered LAST or BOTH in the L/C/B field (column E) of the Master CD Table. These instructions relate to all three tables of the workbook.

  • In the Master CD Table spreadsheet, insure that the “County Population – Assigned to this CD” field (column D) is blank and that column E contains LAST or BOTH. Columns H, I, J, and K display the same data as the previous row. Make a note of the DIFFerence field: this is the population needed to complete the current CD.
  • Switch to the ZCTA Pop spreadsheet. Find the county you have designated as LAST or BOTH. As you scan the county, add ZCTA’s to the current CD until the total population of ZCTA’s added to the current CD exceeds DIFFerence. (In the spreadsheet, use Cut & Paste to move each ZCTA to top of the list of ZCTA’s in that county.) Keep track of the running total, and stop when DIFF (noted earlier) is exceeded. The last ZCTA encountered may or may not be the Last ZCTA in this CD. Either include this ZCTA in the current CD or do not include this ZCTA, based on whether or not the inclusion of this ZCTA brings the state total closer to target. Make a note of the county population assigned to the current CD.
  • Switch to the County Pop spreadsheet:
    • If this county is designated as LAST, enter “<CD#>-LAST” in column C.
    • If this county is designated as BOTH, insert a new row under the subject county, and enter “<CD#>-BOTH” in column C.
    • Enter in column D the population assigned to the current CD from this county, which you had noted in the ZCTA Pop spreadsheet.
    • Enter a formula in column E to calculate the percent used. This is the percentage of the total population of this county that you are assigning to the current CD.
    • Enter a formula in column F to calculate the “Left Over” population that remains to be assigned to a subsequent CD:
      • If column C contains “LAST”, then calculate Left Over (column F) as the difference between the total county population (column B) less the Assigned Population (column D).
      • If column C contains “BOTH”, then calculate Left Over (column F) as the difference between the population Left Over earlier (which will be found in column F in the row above) less the Assigned Population (column D) in the current row.
    • Note the amounts in columns D, E, and F, which you will copy to the Master CD Table.
  • Switch to the Master CD Table spreadsheet. Enter this county’s population Assigned to This CD (column D), % Used (column F), and Left Over (column G).
  • Insure that the total population assigned to this CD is within 5% (±) of AVG. If this limit is exceeded, return to the ZCTA Pop spreadsheet and make the requisite adjustment. It may be necessary to partition the Last ZCTA by census tracts: add or subtract census tracts (~4000 people per tract) in order to get the total CD population as near as possible to AVG.

“CONT County” instructions:

  • Switch to the County Pop spreadsheet, and enter a new row for this county, In that new row, enter the current CD# + “CONT” in column C, enter the previously Left Over population (column F from the row above) into the Assigned Population field (column D) of the new row, and enter 0 in the Left Over field (column F) of this row. Enter a formula to calculate the % Used (that is. column D divided by the total county population). Make a note of the county population assigned to this CD and the % Used.
  • Switch to the ZCTA Pop spreadsheet. Find the current county. For every ZCTA in this county that was not previously assigned, enter the current CD# in column D, “CONT” in column E, and the running total of ZCTA’s assigned to the current CD in column F. After you have assigned all ZCTA’s, the final entry in column F should equal the county population assigned to this CD in the County Pop spreadsheet, which you had noted earlier.
  • Switch back to the Master CD Table spreadsheet. Using the numbers you noted from the County Pop spreadsheet, fill in columns C through G. The Available population (column C) and the population Assigned to This CD (column D) are the same number. Enter the number you obtained from the County Pop spreadsheet. Enter “CONT” in column E. Enter the % Used that you calculated from the County Pop spreadsheet into column F. Enter 0 in column G.

Appendix 2. Proposed Gerrymandering Solution Applied to Pennsylvania

I used Pennsylvania as a second sample state. Pennsylvania is a good candidate to see how the proposed solution works in a large state with a regular shape. Pennsylvania is among the states with the largest congressional delegations – 18. Here are the detailed maps and county listings.

We start with a map of Pennsylvania showing all 67 counties and a table showing the population of each county.

 

 

PA 2010 County Populations  
cntyname population
Adams PA 101407
Allegheny PA 1223348
Armstrong PA 68941
Beaver PA 170539
Bedford PA 49762
Berks PA 411442
Blair PA 127089
Bradford PA 62622
Bucks PA 625249
Butler PA 183862
Cambria PA 143679
Cameron PA 5085
Carbon PA 65249
Centre PA 153990
Chester PA 498886
Clarion PA 39988
Clearfield PA 81642
Clinton PA 39238
Columbia PA 67295
Crawford PA 88765
Cumberland PA 235406
Dauphin PA 268100
Delaware PA 558979
Elk PA 31946
Erie PA 280566
Fayette PA 136606
Forest PA 7716
Franklin PA 149618
Fulton PA 14845
Greene PA 38686
Huntingdon PA 45913
Indiana PA 88880
Jefferson PA 45200
Juniata PA 24636
Lackawanna PA 214437
Lancaster PA 519445
Lawrence PA 91108
Lebanon PA 133568
Lehigh PA 349497
Luzerne PA 320918
Lycoming PA 116111
Mc Kean PA 43450
Mercer PA 116638
Mifflin PA 46682
Monroe PA 169842
Montgomery PA 799874
Montour PA 18267
Northampton PA 297735
Northumberland PA 94528
Perry PA 45969
Philadelphia PA 1526006
Pike PA 57369
Potter PA 17457
Schuylkill PA 148289
Snyder PA 39702
Somerset PA 77742
Sullivan PA 6428
Susquehanna PA 43356
Tioga PA 41981
Union PA 44947
Venango PA 54984
Warren PA 41815
Washington PA 207820
Wayne PA 52822
Westmoreland PA 365169
Wyoming PA 28276
York PA 434972
total 12702379

 

Given these data, we can draw Pennsylvania’s 18 CD’s.

The following pages display, for each congressional district in Pennsylvania, a) a map showing the Reference Line and Scan Line, b) a table showing the allocation of county populations to the CD, and c) a map of the completed CD.

Pennsylvania Congressional District 1

Reference Line and Scan Line for drawing PA CD 1

 

CD’s Drawn by Scanning Counties (LAST County by ZCTA’s) – Pennsylvania
18 Congressional Districts. Total PA 2010 census population = 12702379. Target population per CD = 705688.
Master Congressional District Table
CD’s Drawn by Scanning Counties (LAST County by ZCTA’s) – Pennsylvania
CD# County County Population Running Aggregates
Available Assigned to this CD LAST/ CONT % Used Left Over State Total This CD Total Target Diff
1 Erie PA 280566 280566 280566 280566 705688 425122
1 Crawford PA 88765 88765 369331 369331 705688 336357
1 Mercer PA 116638 116638 485969 485969 705688 219719
1 Lawrence PA 91108 91108 577077 577077 705688 128611
1 Beaver PA 170539 128611 LAST 75% 41928 705688 705688 705688 0

 

Note that, throughout this example, we have not actually partitioned LAST County by ZCTA’s. Rather, in the table, we have indicated the percentage of LAST County assigned to this CD, and on the map, we have colored in a portion of the county roughly equal to this same percentage of territory. Let us simply stipulate that the actual redistricting process will always include scanning of LAST County and assignment of ZCTA’s to the current CD until target is reached.

 

Completed PA CD 1

Pennsylvania Congressional District 2

Reference Line and Scan Line for drawing PA CD 2

Master Congressional District Table
CD’s Drawn by Scanning Counties (LAST County by ZCTA’s) – Pennsylvania
    County Population Running Aggregates
Available Assigned to this CD LAST/ CONT % Used Left Over State Total This CD Total Target Diff
2 Previous State Total and New Target for This CD 705688 0 1411376 705688
2 Greene PA 38686 38686 744374 38686 1411376 667002
2 Washington PA 207820 207820 952194 246506 1411376 459182
2 Beaver 41928 41928 CONT 25% 0 994122 288434 1411376 417254
2 Allegheny PA 1223348 417254 LAST 34% 806094 1411376 705688 1411376 0

 

Complete PA CD 2

 

Pennsylvania Congressional District 3

Reference Line and Scan Line for drawing PA CD 3

Master Congressional District Table
CD’s Drawn by Scanning Counties (LAST County by ZCTA’s) – Pennsylvania
    County Population Running Aggregates
Available Assigned to this CD LAST/ CONT % Used Left Over State Total This CD Total Target Diff
3 Previous State Total and New Target for This CD 1411376 0 2117064 705688
3 Fayette PA 136606 136606 1547982 136606 2117064 569082
3 Allegheny PA 806094 569082 BOTH 47% 237012 2117064 705688 2117064 0

 

Completed PA CD 3

Note that Pennsylvania CD 3 is one of the rare districts whose land area is not entirely contiguous.

Pennsylvania Congressional District 4

Reference Line and Scan Line for drawing PA CD 4

Master Congressional District Table
CD’s Drawn by Scanning Counties (LAST County by ZCTA’s) – Pennsylvania
    County Population Running Aggregates
Available Assigned to this CD LAST/ CONT % Used Left Over State Total This CD Total Target Diff
4 Previous State Total and New Target for This CD 2117064 0 2822752 705688
4 Butler PA 183862 183862 2300926 183862 2822752 521826
4 Allegheny PA 237012 237012 CONT 19% 0 2537938 420874 2822752 284814
4 Westmoreland PA 365169 284814 LAST 78% 80355 2822752 705688 2822752 0

 

Completed CD 4

Pennsylvania Congressional District 5

Reference Line and Scan Line for drawing PA CD 5

Appendix 1. Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) Procedures

This book proposes the use of Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) in all elections in the United States. The specific RCV procedure differs depending on several factors, including the number of positions being contested and whether this is a primary or a general election. Common to all RCV elections is that voters choose multiple candidates for each office and rank their choices.

Some critics have suggested that this will not really work, because few voters will opt to make a 2nd or 3rd choice. But experience with RCV around the world does not support that conclusion. Voters do learn fairly quickly that RCV really does give them a greater voice in the outcome. It allows them to vote for their preferred candidate first, knowing that their vote will be reassigned to their 2nd choice if no candidate has a majority and their 1st choice is eliminated.

RCV Categories

This appendix summarizes the RCV procedures for federal elections conducted in accordance with the reforms I have proposed in this book. Specific procedures obtain in each of these categories:

  • An election with a single winner. This is the most common election category and includes:
    • The general election for a single member of Congress (either Senate or House),
    • The general election for president conducted in each Congressional District and in each state,
    • An open primary for president and for vice president/chancellor conducted in each Congressional District,
  • An open primary election (with three winners) for a single member of the Senate or the House.
  • A primary or general election for two to four seats in the Senate or the House.

RCV Voting

  • For any primary or general election which will fill fewer than four positions, voters select a 1st choice, a 2nd choice, and a 3rd choice.
  • For any primary or general election which will fill four positions, voters select a 1st choice, a 2nd choice, and two 3rd choices.

RCV Counting of Ballots

  • For an election with a single winner, the objective is that the winning candidate should demonstrate some level of support from a majority of the electorate:
    1. Count the 1st choice votes for each candidate, and rank order the results. Repeat steps 2 through 4 until one candidate has a majority of 1st choice votes.
    2. Eliminate the candidate with the fewest votes.
    3. Reassign each vote for the eliminated candidate to each voter’s next highest choice for a candidate not yet eliminated.
    4. If a ballot for the eliminated candidate contains no choice for a candidate not yet eliminated, then that ballot is exhausted and is no longer counted as part of the total vote. [Note that, as candidates are eliminated, the share of the total vote for each remaining candidate can only grow, never shrink.]
  • For an open primary election for a single position, the objective is that all voters can participate in choosing the candidate of their choice, and ¾ or more of all voters will choose one of the three candidates who qualify for the general election:
    1. Count the 1st choice votes for each candidate, and rank order the results. Repeat steps 2 through 4 until only three candidates remain, or until three candidates each exceed 25% of the 1st choice votes. (Note: it is mathematically impossible for four candidates to exceed 25%.)
    2. Eliminate the candidate with the fewest votes.
    3. Reassign each vote for the eliminated candidate to each voter’s next highest choice for a candidate not yet eliminated.
    4. If a ballot for the eliminated candidate contains no choice for a candidate not yet eliminated, then that ballot is exhausted and is no longer counted as part of the 1st choice votes.
  • Elections for two to four positions.
    1. The objective in multi-winner elections is that the candidates with the greatest collective support among voters become the winners. This system gives greater weight to the voter’s 1st choice over their 2nd choice, and greater weight to their 2nd choice over their other (3rd) choices, while still allowing voters to participate in choosing all contested positions.
    2. For all primary elections for two or more positions, the number of candidates who qualify for the general election equals two more than the number of positions to be filled. Thus the general election will result in the election of all but two of the candidates on that ballot.
    3. In a general election for three positions, this system insures that the minority party has an opportunity to win one seat. Specifically, if a candidate is the 1st choice of 41% of the voters, that candidate is assured of winning.
    4. In a general election for three or four positions, a voter who votes for all positions to be filled will have voted for at least one winner. This insures that every voter has at least one elected representative.
    5. Procedure: For both the primary and the general election, calculate the weighted vote for each candidate, which equals 3 X the candidate’s 1st choice votes + 2 X the 2nd choice votes + the 3rd choice votes. Rank order the results.

While the RCV procedure suggested here is less than ideal, it has the advantage of being easy to understand and to implement, and it does result in much improved representation of minority views. For example, in a three-winner contest, if Party A has a 55% to 45% majority over Party B, Party B can guarantee victory for one candidate if all its voters select the same candidate as their 1st choice.

FairVote.org’s Procedure for Multi-Winner Elections

FairVote.org is an organization that advocates for free and fair elections, and it has sponsored and campaigned for a number of reforms. FairVote was instrumental in Maine’s adoption of Ranked Choice Voting, for example. The procedure proposed in this book for counting ballots in single-winner elections is the same procedure recommended by FairVote.

FairVote also proposes a procedure for counting ballots in multi-winner elections. The procedure is complex and difficult to understand at first reading, and some will find the underlying math challenging. Even though the FairVote procedure produces better results than the procedures I have proposed, I opted for a simpler procedure, easier to understand and easier to implement. Nevertheless, the FairVote procedure should be part of our discussion.

RCV procedure for counting ballots when an election has multiple winners:

The objective in an election with multiple winners is to ensure that all views held by a significant portion of the electorate are represented by at least some of the winners. Essentially, the way this is accomplished is that the number of votes needed to guarantee victory is calculated (called the Actual Threshold (AT)). For example, if an election will have two winners, then the AT will be one-third of the total votes cast, plus one vote. That amount guarantees victory because it is mathematically impossible for two other people to also have that many votes. When a candidate’s vote total exceeds the Actual Threshold, the procedure involves calculating what portion of each vote for the winning candidate was needed to reach that threshold, and then reassigning the excess portion of each voter’s vote to each voter’s next highest choice among all candidates not yet elected or eliminated. If this procedure still results in too few winners, then the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated, and all of that candidate’s votes are reassigned to each voter’s next highest choice.

Admittedly the math here is a bit daunting. Hopefully you can follow it. You can also see a visual demonstration of these procedures by visiting FairVote.org, open the Fair Representation Act page, and click on Demo.

  • Definition of variables:
    • N = number of winners for an election with multiple winners.
    • Threshold Percent (T%) Plus One Vote (T%+1): The share of the total vote that guarantees a candidate’s victory. The formula for T%+1 is 100%/(N+1), + 1 vote. For example, if a general election will elect three members of Congress, then T%+1 = 100%/4 or 25% of the total vote, plus one vote. This is because, if one candidate reaches that threshold, it is mathematically impossible for three other candidates to also have 25% + 1 vote. T%+1 can be calculated at any time and is always the same for any election with a given number of winners.
    • Actual Threshold (AT): The number of votes needed to win a particular election, defined as the total votes cast multiplied by T%, plus one vote. This can only be calculated after the election, when the total votes cast is known. For example, in an election with three winners and 1000 votes cast, the AT is 251. Any candidate with at least 251 votes is elected.
    • Winner’s Votes (WV): The number of votes earned by a winning candidate.
    • Winner’s Percent (W%): For a winning candidate, the portion of each voter’s vote needed to reach the Actual Threshold. It is calculated as AT/WV. For example, if 251 is the Actual Threshold, a candidate who earns exactly 251 votes is elected, but needs 100% of every vote to reach the AT. But if that candidate had 400 votes, then only 62.75% of each voter’s vote would be needed to meet the threshold.
    • Excess Percent (E%): For a winning candidate, the portion of each voter’s vote that can be reassigned to each voter’s next highest choice. It is calculated as 100% – W%. Continuing the same example, where W% was calculated as 62.75%, E% would be 37.25%.
  • If N or fewer candidates were on the ballot, all candidates are winners and the election is done.
  • The first step in applying RCV is to calculate T% and AT for this election.
  • If more than N candidates were on the ballot, any candidate whose 1st choice votes meet or exceed the AT is a winner. If N candidates meet the AT, then all these candidates are winners and the election is done.
  • If fewer than N candidates meet the AT, then the following steps are repeated, until N candidates meet the AT or only N candidates remain:
    • For any candidate who has won, W% is calculated, and then E% is calculated. E% of each of the winning candidate’s voter’s vote is then reassigned to that voter’s next highest choice (among candidates neither elected nor eliminated).
    • The candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated, and all the votes for that candidate are reassigned to each voter’s next highest choice (among candidates neither elected nor eliminated).

Constitutional II Convention

Convening the Constitution II Convention

To adopt a new constitution, we need to convene a constitutional convention for the purpose of creating a new constitution. We will refer to this body as the Constitution II Convention.  The Constitution II Convention will draft the new constitution, Constitution II, and the people in each state (not the legislatures of each state) will then ratify it.

Two approaches to convening the Constitution II Convention present themselves. The first approach is to follow the procedures in the current Constitution. The second follows the precedent established by the Framers of the current Constitution. Each approach can succeed only with a great deal of active citizen involvement and broad public support.

First Approach

The first approach uses the procedures in Article V of the Constitution to amend the Constitution, specifically, to replace Article V – Amendments with the Amendment on Amendments, detailed in Big Fix 3. The Amendment on Amendments gives citizens the exclusive power to approve all constitutional amendments and to propose a constitutional convention.

Article V of the Constitution spells out two procedures for proposing a constitutional amendment: a) Two-thirds of the state legislatures ask Congress to call for a convention for the purpose of proposing amendments; or b) Congress itself, by a two-thirds vote in each chamber, proposes an amendment. When Congress submits a proposed constitutional amendment to the states, Congress can specify whether the amendment will be ratified by the state legislatures or by state conventions.

The American people could demand that our state legislatures petition Congress to convene a constitutional convention for the purpose of proposing the Amendment on Amendments. Or we could demand that Congress propose the Amendment on Amendments. We could further demand that Congress specify that state conventions (rather than state legislatures) will endorse the will of the people in each state, based on a ballot referendum on the Amendment on Amendments.

Under either procedure, the Amendment on Amendments is then submitted to the 50 states, where 38 states ratify it, making it part of the Constitution.

After we adopt the Amendment on Amendments, a citizens’ petition, drawn up in accordance with the Amendment on Amendments, calls for a constitutional convention to rewrite the constitution. When the voters approve this petition, the Constitution II Convention will take place.

We can expect a challenge to the constitutionality of the Amendment on Amendments, since it removes the guarantee that no state will be denied its equal representation in the Senate without its consent. The counter-argument is that of James Madison: we have the authority to change our government.

If this first approach is successful, then the path will be clear to submit a rewritten constitution to the states for approval by the people, in accordance with the procedure in the Amendment on Amendments.

Second Approach

We should try the first approach first. It’s clean and straightforward, and it will garner support from those who insist on following the letter of the law.

But what if it doesn’t work? What if political obstructionism prevents us from replacing Article V with the will of the people, and yet public opinion polls demonstrate overwhelming public support for convening the Constitution II Convention?

In that case, we may need to follow the precedent of the guys who wrote the 1787 Constitution. That is, ignore the rules in the existing document for amending it, because those rules are so prejudiced in favor of the existing power structure that we can never expect them to relinquish that power voluntarily.  Instead, convene a new constitutional convention of the people, and campaign for widespread public support.

Here are specific suggested steps for convening the Constitution II Convention using the second approach:

  1. The process begins with a petition, organized and circulated through any of the national civic organizations with a continuing interest in these matters, demanding a national convention for the purpose of creating a new constitution.
    1. Then an existing non-partisan civic organization with a focus on politics agrees to take the lead in organizing discussions on Constitution II or helps form a new organization with this mission. The League of Women Voters, FairVote.org, Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government (especially the Roy and Lila Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation), the University of Virginia Center for Politics, and probably a dozen other entities would be candidates for this role. One or more state or national political leaders might see the merit in this effort and lend it credibility.
      1. When citizen support for this endeavor becomes sufficiently widespread and vocal, the sponsoring organization will call together a core group of scribes to write and edit and vet the document.
        1. As was the case before the 1787 Constitutional Convention, all states will be invited to participate in the process of drafting Constitution II; but this time around, direct citizen action must drive the process, rather than allowing politicians to exercise control over the process or veto power over the result.
        1. The Constitution II Convention, charged with the task of drafting Constitution II, will hold its first official meeting when 60% of the states call for same and agree to send representatives to it. A state can join the Constitution II Convention by either an action of the state legislature or by a plebiscite of its citizens.
        1. And, voila!, the Constitution II Convention is underway. Additional states can join the process throughout the Constitution II Convention whenever they see fit to do so.

If this second approach to convening the Constitution II Convention is followed, we can expect an intense national conversation and debate about the proper method to follow for ratification.

Constitution II Convention Procedures

Technology will facilitate participation of a wide swath of citizens in the drafting and editing process.

State governments can designate representatives if they so choose, as can Congress and the federal judiciary; all representatives can participate either electronically or in person. The Constitution II Convention can begin meeting officially when it has representatives from at least 60% of the states. Citizen opinion polls and online voting schemes can be employed to ensure citizen support for each article, section, paragraph, sentence, and clause of Constitution II. I envision a lively, months-long, highly participatory civics lesson, at the end of which the American public will be much better informed concerning their government, their constitution, and democracy, and much more supportive of all three.

When the whole document is complete, sponsors will ask each state to submit it to their voters in a public referendum. This will happen, of course, only if citizens demand it, loudly and consistently over a long period of time.

If Americans follow the first approach to convening the Constitution II Convention, then the ratification procedure will be straightforward, following the procedure in the Amendment on Amendments. Voters at the next general election will accept or reject Constitution II, and if they vote to accept it, then this will become the new constitution and the law of the land in all 50 states.

If Americans follow the second approach to convening the Constitution II Convention, then the path to ratification is less clear. Public demands for a plebiscite in every state will be necessary to force a vote. One can hope that, if several states approve Constitution II, more states will follow, and the effort will gain momentum. Though the last few states might be a challenge, 30 states will ultimately ratify. At that point, the other 20 states will need to decide whether to join in or else lose out entirely, and hopefully all will join.

This scenario is not as far-fetched as it might seem at first glance. In any case, working to achieve it or something like it is far better than simply wringing our hands and complaining bitterly how the system is rigged against us, or how Big Money always wins, or how the entrenched politicians will remain forever entrenched and there is nothing we can do about it.

Consent of 60% of Us

Today, of course, we want our Government to be far more democratic, far more representative of the people, than the Framers of the 1787 Constitution would ever have dared dream. Therefore, this new Constitution II will come into effect only after it has been adopted (or “ratified”) by a majority of voters in at least 60% of the states, including states that constitute at least 60% of the US population according to the most recent census.

The suggested 60% threshold for ratification (for both states and population) is arbitrary. Any number can be argued, both pro and con.

At one extreme, we could put the new Constitution II into effect among the states that have approved it when ratified by just nine states, making up just a majority of the US population. We could argue for this suggestion for two reasons: 1) Precedent, since that is the number of states needed to ratify the 1787 Constitution and put it into effect; and 2) Conveniently, the nine most populous states comprise 51% of the US population.

At the other extreme, we could require unanimous approval by a plebiscite in every state, perhaps with a super-majority in every state. But that would be like trying to amend the Articles of Confederation by unanimous approval of all state legislatures, or trying to reconstitute the US Senate under the strictures of the existing Article V. That simply was not going to happen in 1787, and it sure ain’t gonna happen now.

So 60% seems a reasonable compromise. If a majority of the voters in 60% of the states containing 60% of the nation’s population think it’s time for a constitutional overhaul, then perhaps we ought to just go ahead with it, and trust that the rest of the states will buy into it in due course.

Formatting Notes in Constitution II

  • Most of the provisions of Constitution II are unchanged from the Constitution of 1787 as amended, which Constitution II replaces. Some provisions have been reworded or modernized without changing the original meaning. Provisions copied or modernized from the 1787 Constitution appear in normal type along with a footnote indicating the source.
  • New provisions appear in Italics. As needed, footnotes explain the new wording.
  • In all cases, spelling, punctuation, and capitalization have been updated to reflect modern usage.

Finally, let me end with this: I suffer no illusion that this Constitution II is the be-all and end-all. It is merely one man’s proposal and a starting point for discussions, which need to be wide-ranging, deep, extended over time, and inclusive.

And now for my piece de resistance, Constitution II. Read on!

Overview of Constitution II

Something Old and Something New

The new thing we create must be far more democratic, far more subject to the will of the people. It must empower all Americans to play a role, to have a stake, and to have the ability to affect the outcome.

At the same time, we need not, indeed we should not, start over from scratch. As noted in Part I, what the Founding Fathers created was enormously creative, visionary, brave against all odds, and long-lasting. Most of their work retains these qualities. But many details remain incomplete, some provisions are outdated and no longer work as smoothly as intended, some are intentionally anti-democratic and continue to deny us a real democracy, and quite a few significant issues of our time could not have been foreseen when the 1787 Constitution was written. Therefore, for those of us who would like our Constitution and basic form of government to keep working but also want to reform the parts that are broken and fill in the parts that are missing, we are left with two possible courses of action: 1) We could choose to introduce and fight for dozens of Individual constitutional amendments to fix every broken or missing part, including some which we know from the get-go have just about zero chance of ever gaining acceptance from the current power structure; or 2) we could opt for a substantial rewrite of the whole document.

In fact, that is essentially what Constitution II is all about: Keep the original wherever possible, incorporate all previously ratified Amendments, and also incorporate the fixes contained in Part II of this work. The structural changes in Constitution II include the replacement of the Original Senate by the New Senate as well as the replacement of the Vice President by a new Chancellor of the Senate.

Also consider the rather mundane question of language:

  • The original 1787 Constitution contained 4490 words. Since ratification, we have adopted 27 Amendments containing a total of 3300 words, or 73% of the original length. The two dozen or so amendments suggested in Part II of this work would add about 3000 words, making the amendments longer than the original document.
  • The previously adopted and newly proposed amendments modify or supersede numerous original provisions of the 1787 Constitution, scattered throughout the document, so that even just reading it straight through and understanding how it all fits together is something of a challenge.
  • The English language has also changed since 1787. Americans ought to be able to read their foundational document and understand what it means. We ought to be able to teach this in middle school, and pupils should be able to internalize its core concepts.
  • The Model-T Ford was a fine machine in its day. If you still owned one in 2017 and wanted to modernize it, you could retrofit it to have an automatic transmission, a powerful engine, air conditioning, visible taillights, modern bumpers, and maybe even seatbelts and air bags; the result would be a patchwork quilt of alterations and make-do fixes and hardly recognizable as a derivative of the original. But inevitably there comes a point at which it’s time for a new car, incorporating all the wonderful Model-T features that were novel at the time but also all the advances that have been invented since. That’s where we are with our Constitution.

On the basis of language alone, it’s time to replace the 1787 Constitution as written and amended with a new version, incorporating all the existing amendments into the body of the basic document and also incorporating our new provisions.

Therefore, Constitution II updates the document’s English language usage, punctuation, and spelling. By incorporating all previous amendments into the constitution itself, the whole document becomes much more readable and understandable.

Additional Challenges and Fixes Addressed in Constitution II

The challenges and fixes discussed in Parts I and II of this discourse relate specifically to elections, representation, and voting. If we are going to replace the 1787 Constitution with Constitution II, then we probably ought to fix a number of other challenges which bear fixing at the same time. This section addresses challenges and fixes in two categories: those dealing with Congressional rules and those dealing with the Bill of rights.

Congressional Rules Challenge

Arcane rules in both the Senate and the House combine with partisan intransigence to make our Congress woefully ineffective.

Dems-Repubs, Yin-Yang

Dems-Repubs, Yin-Yang

Our Government was purposely designed to provide for competing interests, checks and balances, and representation of minority views. At its most basic level, this includes the federal system itself, in which governmental powers are divided between states and the federal government. Within the federal government, powers are divided among three co-equal branches – legislative, executive, and judicial, and each of these branches has a distinct role to play with respect to federal laws. The sole responsibility for making law is vested in a bicameral legislature, both chambers of which need to agree on a proposed law. The President also has a legislative role, in that he can either sign or veto a bill passed by both houses of Congress; but if he vetoes a law passed by Congress, the Congress can override that veto by a 2/3 vote in both chambers. Finally, the Supreme Court is the final review authority, as the Court can reject a law that it deems in violation of the Constitution.

Given the many intentional, constitutional obstacles to passing a law, our Congress has nevertheless opted to adopt several additional obstacles, which are unnecessary from a constitutional standpoint and which serve to only further slowdown or block Congressional action. Proponents argue that these extra limits are necessary to protect minority rights (in the case of the Senate’s filibuster and other procedural roadblocks) or a minority of the majority party (in the case of certain House rules). However, the simple fact is that our Congress has become muscle-bound and incapable of acting on even the most basic functions of governance.

When we hear that Americans are fed up with Congress, one of the principal complaints is that Congress cannot act, cannot actually do anything. Congress seems to spend all its time in endless arguing while legislating little of substance.

At the same time, often because Congress is unable or unwilling to act, Presidents of both parties have issued Executive Orders to accomplish things that Congress won’t. Presidents will always claim that they are acting within their constitutional authority or they are merely providing the necessary administrative details to implement laws that Congress has already passed. Be that as it may, we have witnessed the gradual accumulation of Presidential power and authority at the expense of Congress, with loud complaints by whichever political party does not currently hold the White House.

So the challenge for us is twofold: 1) change the rules of the House and Senate to force Congress to function or at least to reduce their many excuses for failing to function; and 2) restore some balance between the President and Congress by giving Congress a role in the issuance of Executive Orders.

Even though Americans are disgusted by the performance of our Congress, we seem to have little stomach for doing anything about it. Many seem to think that Congress will ultimately work it out for themselves, or they seem to think that we the people are powerless.

We are misguided if we think that we can leave it to Congress to figure it out and fix it. Legislatures sometimes die of self-inflicted wounds. A most famous example occurred in the Sejm (Parliament) of Poland in the 17th and 18th centuries. The Sejm at that time had a rule called the liberum veto which allowed any single senator to veto and thus kill all the legislation passed by the Sejm in its current session, thereby causing its dissolution. Poland’s kings needed to raise armies to fight invaders, but a single senator, sometimes bribed by foreign officials, nullified every Sejm session that attempted to pass the needed laws. As a result, Poland had no army to defend itself, the country was invaded and partitioned by its neighbors (Russia, Austria, and Prussia), and Poland ceased to exist as a separate nation from 1795 until the end of World War I. Throughout Europe, the term Polish parliament came to be a synonym for inept government. With no major legislation and very little legislation of any kind, our last Congress was about as inept as that 18th century Polish parliament; and like the Sejm of that time, Congress better get its act together soon, before it just withers away into total irrelevance.

Congressional Rules Fixes

It’s time that Americans demand that the Congress find the means to break through its own gridlock before we become an American version of the Polish Sejm, that is, before we too have a legislature known only for its inability to act. Find some cajones, you guys, and ACT to save your own institution before it crumbles into carping, name-calling, gotcha-moments, political theatre, and total incompetence. You have the power to fix this. Here are several specific proposals to accomplish just that.

Reform the Filibuster

Senate rules permit any senator to talk forever on any legislation under consideration. These rules also allow the senator who is speaking to pass the baton to any other senator, who can continue speaking without interruption until again passing the baton to someone else. In this way, a small group of senators can prevent any legislation from coming to a vote – they just keep speaking until the Senate leaders agree to withdraw the bill the minority doesn’t like. It does not matter how important that legislation is – defending our country, paying our bills, whatever.

During the nineteenth century, Senate minorities perfected the rarely-used practice of talking a bill to death, which came to be known as filibustering. Unlimited debate continued in the Senate until 1917, when the Senate adopted a rule that permitted a two-thirds majority of senators present and voting to end debate on a bill, thus allowing the bill to come to the floor for an up-or-down vote. This device is called “invoking cloture” – that is, choking off further debate. With 100 senators, this meant that 67 votes were needed to invoke cloture. In 1975, the number of votes needed to invoke cloture was reduced to three-fifths, or 60 senators. So at present, 41 senators can kill any bill, even if 59 senators want to vote on it. In practice, it’s often not even necessary to mount the filibuster – just threatening to filibuster is enough to kill the proposed law: Senators do not need to actually filibuster; they can just declare their intention to do so, and the 60-vote majority is in effect.

Many Americans might be surprised to learn that the Constitution does not prescribe rules of debate for the Senate. The filibuster rules are only traditional practices adopted as Senate Rules of Order, which the Senate adopts anew as its first order of business whenever a new Congress convenes. The Senate has the authority to amend those rules by a two-thirds vote whenever it so chooses or by a simple majority vote at the beginning of a new Congress. Without any question, we should demand that the Senate change these rules. (You might be interested to learn that the original House of Representatives also had unlimited debate, but the increasing number of House members made the practice unwieldy, and so the House changed its rules – just like the Senate should do now.)

The Original Senate could eliminate the filibuster today by amending its own rules. Just in case that doesn’t happen, Article II Section 5 of Constitution II eliminates the filibuster by mandating that decisions in both chambers will be taken by majority vote, and by providing further that any member may call a bill or nomination to the floor.

Blocking Presidential Appointments

At present any senator may block any Presidential executive or judicial appointment. Recent modifications to Senate rules have curtailed this practice to some extent, but the practice or tradition of blocking appointments through the actions of a single senator should be abandoned altogether. The new provision in Article II Section 5 of Constitution II allowing any Senator to call a nomination to the floor eliminates the ability of any one Senator to block a nomination indefinitely.

The President should also have the power to make temporary appointments when the Seante fails to act on a nomination. Article III Section 2 of Constitution II contains a new wording concerning Presidential appointments, which would allow the President to appoint someone temporarily if the Senate fails to act on a Presidential nomination for 60 days. The temporary appointment would end when the Senate acts or at when the next Congress convenes, whichever occurs first.

Rules for Bringing Legislation to the Floor of the House of Representatives

Both major political parties, at various times, have used their majority status in the House to prevent House consideration of legislation which might pass the whole House with bipartisan support but which does not have enough support to pass the whole House within the majority party itself. At present this problem manifests itself as Republican obstructionism, but that is only because the Republicans currently are the majority party in the House of Representatives. Democrats are equally capable of these shenanigans.

Here is how this works: We have 435 members of the House, so 218 constitute a majority. The Republicans currently have 240 representatives, and 195 representatives are Democrats. Before any legislation comes to the floor for a vote, it must be passed by the House Republican Conference – that is, all the Republican representatives. But if a bill has the support of fewer than 218 Republicans within the Republican Conference, the leadership does not allow the bill to come to the floor of the whole House.

The purpose of the current rule or practice is to block any legislation that would need Democratic votes in order to become law. Thus it prevents the Democrats from taking any credit. The real effect of this practice is to give any group of 23+ Republican representatives veto power over all legislation. It ruined the Speakership of Representative John Boehner. It makes governing extremely difficult if not impossible. It destroys any hope of bipartisanship. It brings the US House of Representatives that much closer to becoming the Polish Sejm of the 18th century.

Fixing this could involve the following new House rules:

  1. Any bill that has the support of a majority of the majority party in its conference will advance to the floor of the House. In our present House of Representatives, that means that any bill supported by a majority of Republicans within the Republican Conference (121+ Republican members) will be brought to the floor of the House.
  2. Any representative may introduce a motion to bring any matter to the floor, including any pending legislation. If a majority of House members agree, that matter will become the first order of business on the next day that the House is in session.
  3. As a most extreme solution, the Speaker of the House could become a non-partisan position, perhaps not even an elected politician or member of the House; or it could become a bipartisan position, in which the Speaker of the House must be approved by a majority of the members of both political parties. In either case, the job of Speaker should be to ensure the smooth functioning of the House, and to bring to the floor any measure recommended by the leadership of the majority party or by a majority of all House members.

The same Article II Section 5 provision of Constitution II referenced earlier that allows any Member to call a bill to the floor with the approval of a majority of the House will solve this problem. If Members can cobble together a bipartisan majority of House Members, they can insure that a bill will be brought to the floor for a vote by the full House.

Executive Orders

Congress should pass a law that requires the President to give Congress a 30-day warning before the effective date of any Executive Order. In addition, during that 30-day waiting period, either House by a majority vote can prevent that Executive Order from going into effect. (Of course, in the event of a national emergency, Congress could simply pass a law equal to the Executive Order, allowing it to go into effect immediately.)

The courts may find such a law to be an unconstitutional infringement on the authority of the executive under the 1787 Constitution. To circumvent any such finding, Article III Section 3 of Constitution II contains a new paragraph concerning Executive Orders. This provision gives Congress 30 days to block an E.O. that it finds objectionable. Hence, if Congress allows an E.O. to go into effect, it must accept at least partial ownership of the result.

Conclusion

In sum, we need an overhaul of the procedures that govern the way Congress operates. Americans deserve a Congress that serves the interests of the people. We do have the power to insist upon a functioning democracy. To achieve this fundamental goal, we will need to elect senators and representatives who actually want to govern and who want to work with all sides to arrive at solutions that work for all. We should also include specific provisions in Constitution II that will facilitate a functioning Congress.

Bill of Rights Challenge and Associated Fixes in Constitution II

Often bitter debates took place between the federalist and anti-federalist forces before the 1787 Constitution was ratified. Anti-federalists held that the Constitution as written failed in two major respects: it lacked sufficient protections for individual liberties, and it did not impose strong enough limitations on the power of the federal government. The anti-federalists finally gained assurances from those in favor of the new Constitution that, as soon as the new federal government became operative, the anti-federalists would be able to recommend the kinds of changes that they insisted on.

Accordingly, during the very first Congress elected under the newly-ratified Constitution, James Madison (who had been elected a member of the House of Representatives from Virginia) introduced a series of Amendments; the House approved 17 of these Amendments and sent them over to the Senate, who approved 12 of them and sent them to the states in August 1789. The states ratified 10 of these 12, which became effective in December 1791.

These first ten Amendments to the Constitution, which became known as the Bill of Rights, lay out fundamental rights that the Constitution guarantees. Subsequent constitutional amendments guaranteed voting rights to former slaves, to women, and to all citizens over age 18.

Several Supreme Court decisions and federal laws have expanded on some of our basic rights. A few examples:

  • A Supreme Court decision interpreted the 2nd Amendment as guaranteeing gun rights to individual citizens.
  • Another Supreme Court decision interpreted the 1st, 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 9th Amendments as implicitly recognizing the right to privacy.
  • A federal law, the Voting Rights Act, expanded voting rights for all citizens but especially for racial minorities.

However, Congress can alter laws. and court decisions can be overturned. Therefore, to secure these and other individual rights for present and future generations, we need to enshrine these fixes in the Constitution. The challenge lies in the fact that, without such constitutional guarantees, our Bill of Rights remains somewhat incomplete.

Several citizen rights exist in various states but not at the federal level, including Initiative, Referendum, and the right to amend the constitution. States do not have the right to supersede a federal statute or to secede from the Union.

Again, we must remember that in 1787 the authors of the Constitution had limited experience with the rights of individual persons or citizens, so we should not criticize them for not including some of these rights in the original document. They feared the tyranny of the mob almost as much as they feared the tyranny of a king, and with good reason. The Jacobite Rebellions in England (ending in 1746) were still fresh in their consciousness. Hence our Founding Fathers trusted Congress more than they trusted a President, and they trusted state legislatures more than they would ever trust the people to protect the freedom of all citizens and freedom from either form of tyranny.

We have come a long way since the 18th century. Today we have relatively more faith in the people though we retain a somewhat jaundiced view of government and especially of professional politicians. The trick is to devise a system of government that protects both individual and collective rights while limiting the ability of government to trample over those rights.

One principal piece of a solution is to divide governmental functions into three parts: make laws, enforce laws, and interpret laws; and then to assign these three basic functions to three co-equal branches of government – Congress, the President, and the Courts. A second piece is to divide power between the federal government and the state governments. The Framers implemented both of these pieces fairly well. But the third piece is to carve out a special role for the people, which the Framers did only in part.

We the people have been clamoring for more power ever since. For example, we campaigned for and obtained direct election of senators, and we insisted that voters select Presidential electors. We gained voting rights for women, for former slaves, and for all racial and ethnic minorities.

Though we have made significant progress, the task of “people empowerment” is not complete. All the items presented in the Bill of Rights Challenge relate in some way to the empowerment of people and of the states and/or to limiting the power of the federal government. These are all stated as “challenges”, because none of them are fully realized in our Constitution. In this section, the discussion of each challenge ends by citing the provision of Constitution II that addresses that challenge.

Equality of Persons; Freedom from Discrimination; Freedom from Torture; Right to Privacy
  • The Declaration of Independence states unequivocally:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

However, this fundamental assertion did not find its way into the Constitution.

  • Congress has passed laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sex and sexual orientation, and it has outlawed age discrimination in employment after age 40. But these prohibitions are not in the Constitution. Other forms of discrimination are partially prohibited, such as discrimination based on race, ethnicity, religion, and national origin.
  • While the 8th Amendment to the Constitution outlaws “cruel and unusual punishments”, the Constitution does not forbid the use of torture for purposes other than punishment. Some have argued that torture used for the purpose of gaining information from a known or suspected traitor or spy or terrorist is not a punishment but rather an effective interrogation device justified by military necessity during war or by the need for public safety during periods of civil unrest or threatened terrorist activity. Others have argued that torture is always inhumane, reduces the government that practices torture to the same level as the terrorist, and furthermore is ineffective at gaining actionable intelligence. Social science research, testimony from victims of torture, and the historical record largely support the latter argument. Most modern societies have abjured the use of torture for any purpose whatsoever.
  • In a landmark 1965 decision (Griswold v. Connecticut), the Supreme Court found a right to privacy implicit in the 1st, 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 9th Amendments. Subsequently the Court based several significant decisions at least in part on that 1965 decision including the right to an abortion (Roe v. Wade, 1973) and the ban on sodomy laws (Lawrence v. Texas, 2003).

The related fixes in Constitution II appear in:

  • Article I, Section 2, ¶ 2.1 Equality of All Natural Persons
  • Article I, Section 2, ¶ 2.3 Freedom from Discrimination
  • Article I, Section 2, ¶ 2.5 Prohibition on Cruel and Unusual Punishment and on Torture
  • Article I, Section 3, ¶ 3.4 Search and Seizure
Rights to Healthcare, Education, and the Necessities of Life

If we can argue that all of us have the right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”, then it follows that we as American citizens have the right to those basic necessities that sustain life and that allow us to pursue happiness. This includes at least the provision of healthcare, education, food, clothing, and shelter:

  • Healthcare is needed to sustain life itself; without it, citizens die of disease prematurely and unnecessarily.
  • Education is needed to prepare citizens for the pursuit of happiness; without it, a citizen’s prospects are severely limited.
  • Without food, citizens starve.
  • Without clothing and shelter, citizens freeze, suffocate, or die from exposure.

There are limits to what governments can and should provide or guarantee. We do have a free-market economy, a capitalist economic system, which encourages entrepreneurship, investment, invention, creativity, risk-taking, and hard work.[1] Those things deserve to be rewarded. However, the cards should not be so stacked against an individual, especially when the circumstances are beyond that individual’s control, that “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” are impossible.

We need to also mention that our system of federalism allows us to construct a system of national, state, and mixed national-state programs that address these challenges. No one should assume, for example, that if a citizen has a constitutional right to something, the federal government must perforce provide it to everyone for free.

The related fixes in Constitution II appear in Article I, Section 3, ¶ 3.8 Healthcare, Education, and Necessities of Life

Clarification of 2nd Amendment

Here is the Second Amendment to the Constitution in its entirety: “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” This Amendment became part of the original Bill of Rights when it was ratified in 1791.

The provenance of the 2nd Amendment is the English Bill of Rights of 1689, which explicitly forbade the Catholic monarch from forcibly disarming Protestants. The English Bill of Rights stated that the English king had no right to take away his subjects’ means of defending themselves. In the US, the debate centered on the ability of states and citizens to protect themselves from forcible takeover by the federal government. The Framers argued that no federal standing army would be able to overcome resistance from a well-organized state militia. However, some also made the personal self-defense argument, harking back to the English Bill of Rights of 1689.

For 217 years, the Second Amendment was interpreted by federal courts as guaranteeing the right of each state to maintain its own militia (or national guard, as we now call it). But in 2008, in Heller v. District of Columbia, the Supreme Court held that the Second Amendment guaranteed each citizen the right to possess a firearm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home. This decision invalidated a District of Columbia law that had outlawed handguns altogether. And interestingly, the Supreme Court based its decision at least in part on English Common Law and specifically on the English Bill of Rights of 1689.

People still argue vehemently over the Heller decision – from gun-rights advocates who argue that the Second Amendment prevents the government from imposing any limits whatsoever on personal weapons, to gun-control advocates who believe that Heller was wrongly decided and should be overturned, or that the Heller decision still allows regulation of firearms, just not their outright prohibition. The challenge here is to come up with a scheme that protects the right of each state to maintain a militia, the right of every individual to protect himself with a firearm, and the right of all citizens to protect themselves from totally unregulated firearms.

The related clarifications in Constitution II appear in:

  • Article I, Section 3, ¶ 3.2 Right to Bear Armsrticle I, Section 4, ¶ 4.6 State Militia
Distinguish Between the Rights of Persons, of Citizens, and of States

We have entertained many arguments over constitutionally-guaranteed rights, not the least of which has been the argument over whether a particular constitutionally-guaranteed right pertains to all persons within the jurisdiction of the United States or only to citizens of the United States. For instance, do visitors to the US or permanent residents of the US have a right to free speech, free exercise of religion, and freedom of assembly – or do those rights only attach to American citizens? Can anyone in the country possess a firearm, or only a citizen? Does anyone accused of a crime within the US get a jury trial, or only citizens? The challenge is that the original Bill of Rights does not distinguish between citizens and other persons who fall within the jurisdiction of the US.

A similar challenge exists in delineating the rights of people versus the rights of states.

The clarification in Constitution II appears in Article I, Section1: Introduction to the Bill of Rights, which specifies that Constitution II establishes the rights of natural persons, citizens, and states. The subsequent sections of Article I specify the rights of Natural Persons, of Citizens, and of States.

Definition of Citizens, Natural-Born Versus Naturalized

Recent political controversies have centered on questions about the definition of citizens, and especially about the distinction between a natural-born citizen (born in the US or born of American parents while outside the US) and a naturalized citizen (an immigrant who subsequently obtained US citizenship). While the Constitution does not define any of these terms (citizen, natural-born citizen, or naturalized citizen), it does require that the President be a natural-born citizen. So the challenge is to clarify what those terms mean.

The related fix in Constitution II appears in Article I, Section 3, ¶ 3.1 Definition of Citizen

State and Local Rights and Responsibilities

States, localities, and individual citizens should have the right to act, alone or in consort with each other, on matters pertinent to their local interests. Gradually, too many rights of individuals and of states have been taken over by the federal government, usually with unsatisfactory results. Examples abound, but just a few will be cited here:

  • In the natural order of things, K-12 education should be the responsibility of states, parents, and local school officials. It is difficult to argue that the federal government needs to be involved in K-12 curriculum, school policies, scheduling, financing, and so on. Does Washington really have any interest in deciding whether schools in Maryland begin after Labor Day or before, or whether Florida chooses to teach cursive writing? On the other hand, states should be able to join forces when they so choose. Common Core is an example of a state initiative to establish uniform curriculum guidelines, but then the Feds got involved by encouraging states to adopt Common Core, and the US Department of Education funded two companies to develop tests for measuring student achievement of the Common Core standards. The result, both educationally and politically, is a mess. A better result might be achieved by removing the federal government from primary and secondary education entirely, while allowing states who so choose to form an association to set common standards, achieve common goals, conduct educational research, and compete for funding opportunities.
  • Today most Americans agree that traffic regulations belong at the state level. Are you old enough to remember the 55 mph national speed limit? The US Department of Transportation even ran a national ad campaign, with the slogan “Stay Alive – Drive 55”.  As a partial response to the Arab oil embargo in 1973, the 55 mph National Maximum Speed Limit was passed in 1974 and signed by President Nixon as a way of both conserving fuel and saving lives. Congress amended the law to 65 mph in 1987 and repealed it altogether in 1995 – one of the most popular acts of the new Republican Congress elected in 1994. So why didn’t the national speed limit work? The law was both ineffective and unenforceable. Too many people and too many states simply did not buy it for one simple reason: By no stretch of the imagination do drivers in New York or policy wonks in Washington have an interest in how fast trucks are permitted to drive in Montana. Period, end of story.
  • Our current laws recognize that alcohol should be controlled at the state and local level. We experimented with a national prohibition on alcohol, adopted by the 18th Amendment to the Constitution in 1919, then repealed by the 21st Amendment in 1933. Yet today, having learned absolutely nothing from our failed experiment with Prohibition, we treat other intoxicants differently. We have an abundance of conflicting state and federal laws dealing with medical marijuana, recreational marijuana, and other drugs. It’s hard to see why I as a resident of Maryland should give a hoot as to whether the folks attending a Super Bowl party in Denver are getting high on pot rather than Coors Beer. If this is a matter of concern for the citizens of Denver or the state of Colorado, they can deal with it – but please leave me out of that discussion.

Most common crimes are committed locally, with local perpetrators and local victims. Therefore, in our federal system of government, most criminal laws are state laws and local ordinances. The federal government has no discernible interest in those matters. For the most part, federal crimes involve multiple state jurisdictions or international actors, such as bank fraud or smuggling or kidnapping. 

Attitudes of ideologues and of party activists have long argued over states’ rights versus federal prerogatives, and it’s interesting to see historically how the tides and attitudes have shifted over time. In the early days of the republic, for example, slave states wanted the federal government to enforce their property rights in non-slave states by forcing those states to return fugitive slaves to their slave-state owners, while anti-slave states believed that their states had the right to prevent such extraditions. Later, as the abolitionist movement grew, the slave states became advocates for states’ rights, and abolitionists thought the federal government should have the right to outlaw slavery everywhere. Though of less import than slavery in the 19th century, the same argument has occurred in our own time concerning undocumented aliens, sanctuary cities, voting rights, marijuana laws, abortion rights, gun control, and same-sex marriage. In each of these cases and many others, advocates for one side or the other have alternately claimed that federal jurisdiction should be paramount over state statutes, or that states’ rights should be protected against federal intrusion – all depending on who then controls the federal government versus who controls a state government.

The federal government has an obligation to enforce the rights and privileges of all American citizens enumerated in the Constitution, including the laws Congress has passed to implement those rights. Over and above that, the question should be on the locus of control, effect, and payment: Who is in a position to control an activity, who is affected by that activity, and who must pay for it? Air traffic control, for example, must be a federal matter, since most flights go over state boundaries and conflicting state laws would be a complete mess as well as dangerous. Regulations on food and on pharmaceuticals must be national, since these products inevitably involve interstate commerce. But states can handle purely local matters, such as set standards for locally-grown and sold vegetables, high school graduation requirements, highway speed limits, and local building codes.

One challenge that always arises in these discussions is the uneven wealth among the 50 states. A solution to that challenge, occasionally employed by Congress, is federal block grants. We do some of this with Medicaid, disaster relief, and Interstate Highway System projects. But do we have enough of this type of creative funding and federal-state partnerships? Congress can set minimal guidelines that states must follow to qualify for block grants, with the amount of such grants based on the unique needs of each state; but the actual regulations and procedures are left to the states. Perhaps the Constitution should spell out the authority of Congress and of the several states to act in consonance on funding solutions.

The challenge going forward will be to reconsider federal laws and regulations with a view to relegating local matters back to the states, as is mandated in principle in Amendment 10 to the Constitution, to wit: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.”

The related fix in Constitution II appears in Article I, Section 4 Bill of Rights of States.

Power of States to Secede

Some will say that we tried this once in 1861, and it did not turn out well.

In response, I would ask this question: Why should the decisions of 13 state conventions in the 1780’s bind all the states and all the citizens of all those states forever? First, none of us were alive when the Articles of Confederation were adopted (which is where the notion of a “Perpetual Union” of the states was articulated). Second, 37 of the 50 states now in existence did not exist when the Constitution was adopted. Third, this perpetual union idea appears nowhere in the Constitution.

Let me repeat that: The idea that no state can secede from the Union is NOT in our Constitution.

However, this idea IS in the Articles of Confederation from 1781, written and adopted before the Revolutionary War was over. In fact, the complete title of that agreement is “Articles of Confederation and perpetual Union between the states of New Hampshire, Massachusetts-bay, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia.”

I would also posit (though I cannot demonstrate this) that leaving this “perpetual union” clause out of the Constitution was not an accident. The Constitution’s Framers went over the “Articles of Confederation and perpetual Union” meticulously, and retained those provisions which seemed to work well and discarded or replaced others. So why was it not included in the Constitution? Did the Framers realize that future generations might want to rethink their commitment to the Union?

This idea that the “Perpetual Union of the states” need not be perpetual has not been seriously debated since the Civil War, which for most Americans settled that matter once and for all. However, if we think about a system of empowering the people and the states, then the notion that a state might choose to opt out does have merit. The question is this: Why should the commitment to a perpetual union, made by a small, wealthy, privileged group of white men in the thirteen original states bordering the Atlantic Ocean, over two centuries ago, forever bind the people living in, for example, Texas or California (which at that time belonged to Spain), Louisiana and all the states that derived from the Louisiana Purchase of 1803 (which belonged then to France), or Alaska (which belonged to Russia)? Why should that 18th century decision be binding on anyone in the 21st century?

Although we may not foresee the circumstances today that would propel the citizens of a state to make such a choice, is it fair to preclude that choice for now and forever more?

We exist as a single nation, and we function as a single entity. Among other results of our Civil War, the term “United States” became a singular noun rather than a plural noun. Clearly the ties that bind us together are strong. We depend on each other for so much, from a common military to a common currency and financial system to a fully integrated economy, transportation system, energy industry, and commercial sector.

Nevertheless, if some state or states among us conclude that they would be better off as a separate nation, then ought we not have a procedure short of civil war of allowing them to accomplish that? Secession should be difficult, much more than a passing fancy, and chosen deliberately over some period of years; and it should require adequate notice to the other states to adjust – but it should be possible.

The related fix in Constitution II appears in Article I, Section 4, ¶ 4.2.

Power of the People to Initiate and Repeal Laws and to Amend the Constitution

Most states require that the citizenry approve state constitutional amendments at the ballot box, often by a super-majority. 24 states permit citizens to initiate new state laws or repeal existing laws through petitions followed by a popular referendum. We need to adopt similar measures at the federal level. Voters should approve any change to the U.S. Constitution, and citizens or states should also be able to create or repeal laws when Congress fails to act. Citizens should be able to call for a constitutional convention. The rules governing the exercise of such citizen power should make it difficult but not impossible for the citizens, through direct action, to modify our constitution or laws. We should not tinker with the Constitution or statutes on a whim, but citizens in a democracy should be able to effect change for good reason and upon due reflection.

Empowering the people to amend the Constitution will be an immense and historic step in realizing the promise of democracy. Amending our Constitution will not be easy; but if the people demand changes in the Constitution, they should have the means of achieving that result.

The political process known as “Initiative” gives citizens of a state the constitutional right to propose a state statute (and in some cases an amendment to the state constitution) through a petition, bypassing the state legislature. After a certain percentage of registered voters have signed a petition, the proposed law or constitutional amendment appears on the next general election ballot, where voters can accept or reject it. (Some states provide for an intermediate step, in which the proposal is submitted first to the legislature, where the lawmakers can deal with it, and only if the legislature ignores or rejects the proposal does it then go the voters.) Beginning with South Dakota in 1898, 24 states now include some form of Initiative in their state constitutions. The most recent state to adopt the Right of Initiative was Mississippi in 1992.

The term “referendum” simply means a ballot measure. All state constitutions include a “legislative referendum”, which is a ballot measure submitted to the voters by the legislature. Typically, state constitutions require certain measures to be approved by the voters, such as constitutional amendments, bond issues, or tax increases. Some state constitutions also provide for discretionary items, in which the lawmakers just decide to punt on an issue and let the voters decide. 

But a legislative referendum is not the type of referendum we are talking about here. Rather, we want to discuss another type, which could be called a “citizen referendum”. Like the Initiative, a citizen referendum gives citizens the ability to circulate a petition to repeal an act of the legislature. In the typical procedure, after the legislature passes a new law, people who disapprove of that law have a limited amount of time (usually 90 days) in which they can “petition the bill to referendum”. If they gain sufficient signatures on their petition, then the new law goes to the voters for an up-or-down vote at the next election, and in the meanwhile, the new law does not go into effect. 24 states have the citizen “Referendum” in their state constitutions – mostly the same states as have the “Initiative”.

In sum, roughly half the states have Initiative and Referendum. States began experimenting with this more than a century ago, and nothing terrible has happened as a result. Therefore, isn’t it time that we incorporate these tools of citizen empowerment into the US Constitution? We can use the rules for “Initiative and Referendum” in those states that already have such rights, encourage all states to adopt such rights, and fall back on state legislatures in those states that do not yet have such rights.

A constitutional amendment to empower citizens should replace Article V of the 1787 Constitution. This article would state:

  • Citizens and states have the right to propose a federal statute, repeal a federal statute, propose a constitutional amendment, and convene a constitutional convention.
  • Congress has the right to propose a constitutional amendment.
  • Voters have the final decision: Voters will decide whether to enact or repeal a law brought to them through the Initiative or Referendum process; voters will ratify or reject all proposed constitutional amendments; and voters will decide whether or not to convene a constitutional convention and ratify or reject any amendments or new constitution proposed by said convention.

The Amendment on Amendments (Big Fix 3 in Part II above) gives citizens and states the power to propose Constitutional amendments and gives citizens the final say in amending the Constitution. Constitution II goes further, expanding citizen participation in the enactment and repeal of federal statutes.

The related fix in Constitution II appears in Article VII: Initiative, Referendum, and Constitutional Amendments


[1] Interestingly, the original Constitution does not mention capitalism, private property, or free markets. The term “private property” does appear in the 5th Amendment to the Constitution in the clause “nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.” Article I Section 8 of the Constitution gives Congress the power to protect the rights of authors and inventors to benefit from their writings and discoveries, so this clause suggests a right to private property. Nevertheless, I find it most interesting that the foundational document of the greatest capitalist nation on earth does not discuss the role of free enterprise at all.

Election System Fixes

If we are able to adopt Ranked Choice Voting, eliminate preferences for the two-party system, and empower citizens to enact and repeal laws and amend the constitution, then wholesale improvements to our election system become possible.

The reforms argued here include fixes to the presidential selection process, the unrepresentative U.S. Senate, Congressional redistricting, and other election reforms.

Big Fix 3. Empower Voters to Amend the Constitution

The Founding Fathers trusted neither the King nor the people en masse – in their view the tyranny of the mob was no better than the tyranny of an autocrat. That is at least a partial explanation for the very limited power of everyday-joe-citizens in the Constitution. This is pointedly true with respect to amending the Constitution.

Article V of the Constitution specifies the two procedures that can be followed to propose amendments to the Constitution: 1) an amendment can be proposed by two-thirds of both Houses of Congress, or 2) two-thirds of the state legislatures can require Congress to call for a convention that will propose constitutional amendments. In either case, Congress then submits the proposed amendments to the states, specifying whether these amendments will be considered by state legislatures or by state conventions. Proposed amendments that are ratified by three-fourths of the states (either legislatures or conventions, as specified by Congress) become part of the Constitution.

Note that regular citizens have little say in any of this. That is most certainly a challenge.

I believe in democracy. When most of the people want to change our constitution, then their collective opinion should carry the day. At the same time, popular opinion should not be just a temporary infatuation with an idea or politician; rather, the collective, considered opinion of the citizenry, taken over time, should determine our collective course.

The reason I have included this fix as one of the three Big Fixes is that a significant number of the fixes proposed in this book either require a Constitutional amendment or would work better with a Constitutional amendment (including, for example, replacement of the Electoral College or re-making the US Senate into a representative body). Since the existing procedure for amending the Constitution cuts out all but a few thousand federal and state legislators, it behooves us to come up with a new procedure in which Joe and Jane Citizen cast the deciding vote.

In addition to casting the deciding vote on proposed Constitutional amendments, Joe and Jane Citizen should also have a way of introducing or proposing a Constitutional amendment without waiting for the political class to act. My proposal here is that we use the existing procedures in every state for amending their state constitutions. In about half the states, the citizens can use a petition system to put a state constitutional amendment on the ballot, and in almost all the states, voters must ratify a state constitutional amendment whether proposed by citizen petition or by the legislature. If half of the states, following their own states’ procedures for amending their state constitutions, comprising at least half of the US population, propose an amendment to the US Constitution, then that proposed amendment will be submitted to the people.

In the revised amendment procedure, I am recommending that Congress may propose a Constitutional amendment by majority vote in both chambers, as opposed to the two-thirds majority currently required. The rationale for this change is that we are consciously shifting power from the professional politicians to the people. We are not making it easier to amend the Constitution, as you will see in the suggested wording of this Article V replacement; rather, we are making it more difficult for a small clique of elected officials to obstruct the will of the people.

Here is suggested wording for the proposed constitutional amendment. This amendment will be referenced as the Amendment on Amendments throughout this document.

Amendment on Amendments

This amendment replaces Article V of the Constitution.

Section 1. Proposing a Constitutional Amendment

This section prescribes two methods for proposing an amendment to the Constitution.

  • Method 1. The Congress, whenever a majority of both chambers shall deem it necessary, shall propose an amendment to this Constitution.
  • Method 2. Each of the several states may propose a Constitutional amendment by approving the amendment according to the procedures of each state for amending their own state constitutions. When at least half of the states comprising at least half of the US population propose such an amendment, then this amendment becomes a proposed amendment.

When an amendment to this Constitution has been proposed according to either method specified in this Section, that amendment shall be valid to all intents and purposes as part of this Constitution, when ratified by the people as specified in Section 3.

Section2. Constitutional Convention and Proposing a New Constitution

This section prescribes two methods for proposing a Constitutional Convention charged with the task of drafting a New Constitution.

  • Method 1. On the application of the legislatures of two thirds of the several states, Congress shall call a Constitutional Convention for the purpose of drafting a new Constitution.
  • Method 2. Each of the several states may propose a Constitutional Convention charged with drafting a new Constitution by approving the call for a Constitutional Convention according to the procedures of each state for amending their own state constitutions. When at least half of the states comprising at least half of the US population propose a Constitutional Convention, Congress shall call a Constitutional Convention for the purpose of drafting a new Constitution.

When states have called for a Constitutional Convention according to either method specified in this Section, Congress shall convene said convention. The product of said convention shall be the Proposed New Constitution, which shall be valid and will replace this Constitution, when ratified by the people as specified in Section 3.

Section 3. Ratification of Constitutional Amendments by the People

Two General Elections. Ratification requires the approval of voters in two general elections. Between these two general elections, at least one other general election must take place and a new person must hold the office of President.

Ratification Threshold. In both of these two general elections, ratification requires the approval of 1) a majority of all votes cast, and 2) a majority of votes cast in 60% of the states containing 60% of the population.

Executive Summary

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
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Gerrymander Challenge: Both major parties have become quite sophisticated and effective at drawing legislative districts that unfairly favor themselves.
  4. 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)

  1. After selecting their 1st choice for each office, voters may also select a 2nd and a 3rd choice.
  2. 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.

Big Fix Two: Restrain the Two-Party System

  1. 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.
  2. Eliminate legal preferences for the two-party system. Repeal all laws which mention or favor political parties.
  3. 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

  1. Citizens and states can propose a constitutional amendment. (Congress can also propose a constitutional amendment, as at present.)
  2. 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 a proportional voting scheme.

Fix to Challenge 4: Other Election System Fixes

  1. Compress the political campaign season to run from Independence Day to the general election in December.
  2. Automatically register all voters at age 18. Establish a National Voter Registration Authority to maintain all voter rolls.
  3. 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.
  4. Campaign finance reform: Limit who can contribute, how much, and when. Limit fund-raising by candidates. Provide public financing for all general election campaigns.
  5. 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:

  1. Congressional Rules Challenges: Congress follows rules which promote gridlock, preventing necessary legislative action. Presidents step into the resulting power vacuum, creating the imperial presidency.
  2. Congressional Rules Fixes
    1. Reform the filibuster. Reestablish majority rule in both chambers of Congress.
    2. 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.
    3. Give Congress both advance notice and veto power over Presidential executive orders.
  3. 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.
  4. Bill of Rights Fixes:
    1. 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.
    2. 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.
    3. 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?