Wednesday, January 30, 2013

A voting rights amendment

Salon has published an article devoted to the odd fact that our Constituion does not guarantee the right to vote. Many sections of the document imply that right, but the right is never specified.
A right-to-vote amendment would raise the standard of constitutional review for voter-identification laws and other measures that deplete the pool of voters. Currently states have to show only a “compelling interest” for their laws to pass muster. An affirmative right to vote would compel courts to apply “strict scrutiny,” the standard used to review laws that operate on the basis of race and other characteristics.
During the Republican presidential primaries, every candidate except Jon Huntsman signed a pledge to support a balanced-budget amendment in Congress. There’s no reason progressives can’t do the same with a right-to-vote amendment in the next Democratic contest.
A new amendment should, in my opinion, provide not just the right but a new mechanism for choosing our president. We should finally make an end of the electoral college, which gives unfair and disproportionate influence to the rural states, and forces presidential candidates to concentrate on a few "purple" states, instead of addressing the nation at large.

As you know, partisan manipulators in Virginia and other states have toyed with ways to rig the electoral college system. We've had enough of this nonsense. The most sensible choice would be the institution of a nation-wide popular vote.

Why are Constitutional amendments so difficult to pass nowadays? When I was a boy, the 26th amendment -- extending the vote to 18 year olds -- sailed through rapidly. At the time, proponents argued that those old enough to die in an unpopular overseas war ought to have the franchise, a line of reasoning which proved impossible to counter.
Comments:
I am with you in principle on changing the Electoral College system as it is an anachronism.

Do you think simply keeping it as a formality but going to proportional award of the electoral votes by popular vote percentage would do the trick? (That could be done legislatively, without amending the COTUS, although coordinating all the states to do so might be hard. Some already do it.)

What unintended consequences might there be? Vast explosion in election spending as EVERY state gets bombarded, not just the (winner take all) 'swing' states?

XI
 
The problem here, of course, is that Republicans have seized upon the idea of creating a hybrid system to enable them to regain the White House.

States that are still controlled by Republicans will try to convert to awarding electoral votes by congressional district, rather than statewide winner-take-all, especially if they have been able to gerrymander to have a plurality of safe Republican districts.

Any attempt to ratify a voting-rights Amendment (assuming that Republicans would allow it out of Congress) is doomed to failure, since Republicans control enough states to block it.
 
Well, citing the 26th Amendment is cheating, kinda - not only was it the most quickly passed Amendment, it was uniquely well-timed to garner bipartisan support.

The only two failed amendments (I could swear there was at least one other, but Wikipedia doesn't lie) were clearly liberal- (i.e., at the time, Democrat-)championed efforts that ran afoul of the GOP/Dixiecrat bloc: the ERA and the DC Voting Rights Amendment.

What makes it so difficult to pass amendments (if two successive failures can be called a trend) is the [relatively] modern practice of Congress' setting deadlines for ratification. Both failed amendments missed their deadlines; in comparison, the Congressional Apportionment Amendment, proposed in 1789, could still yet be ratified.
 
Any system replacing the Electoral College must retain one very important check'n'balance: the ability of Congress to exclude the votes from any state deemed to have been subject to election fraud. Federal supervision of state-level shenanigans in voting is necessary.
 
I'd forgotten one of the proposals that is alive, currently with about 10 states agreeing-- if half the states eventually agree, then these states will direct their electors to unanimously vote for the winner of the national popular vote.

I'm not confident that is a good idea, for among other reasons, the point of the prior poster.

XI
 
Here in the UK they might be planning to give the vote to 16-year-olds. If you thought the sheeple were moronic, just wait for the Facebook fuckwits and the tweeple!

And after that, maybe they'll give the poor bastards the right to agree contracts to get into debt.

Half of the 18-year-olds in the country think being in debt means being behind with repayments.
 
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