We are so fortunate, as citizens, to have been given the necessary tools by the Framers of our Constitution, to govern ourselves responsibly. But we have to use them, and properly.
Hidden in plain sight, in our First Amendment is our right, “…to petition the government for a redress of grievances”.
In Article V of our Constitution (Amending the Constitution): With a two thirds vote (in both houses) Congress can propose amendments, “…or, on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments, …”
These are our tools; our Constitutionally guaranteed rights. Put the two together, and we can peacefully, respectfully, and quite simply begin governing ourselves responsibly – with pride and dignity.
Each of us can do our part to make it happen with one simple act. Hand or mail your petition to each of your elected representatives working for you at your state capital.
MORE ON TOOLS
First Amendment Right to Petition
As intended by the Framers (James Madison chief among them), our right to petition the government is a legal tool to be used by citizens to call for a legislative remedy. Which means, in this context, you are telling your two state representatives (who work at your pleasure (by your vote) making you their employer) to author/support and vote for your state legislature to make the Application to Congress to call a convention to discuss the proposed amendment.
Article V: Amendment Convention
As intended by the Framers (George Mason, primarily, insisting at the close of the convention in September, 1787), it is a means when the only remedy to a serious flaw or omission is with an amendment to our Constitution, and when Congress, for whatever reason, is unable, then citizens can instead use their state legislature to propose an amendment(s). Though never used yet (to actually convene a convention), it does give us citizens maximum leverage in proposing an amendment, and has been used successfully to gain direct election of Senators with our 17th Amendment. Most recently, Orrin Hatch Utah’s senior Senator, advocating for the Balanced Budget Amendment, laid down the template we followed, that calls for a very specific amendment proposal, which refutes the popular misconception for the possibility of, ”a runaway convention”.
FIRST AMENDMENT STRENGTHENED
Incredulously (to us) a fear has been voiced that our proposed amendment, if ratified, would violate freedom of speech by prohibiting the “right” to buy advertising, or to use money to buy influence, or otherwise promote one’s wishes through legislation, or by ballot.
Our response: We wouldn’t think of allowing advertising in the courtroom to influence a trial, or allowing professionals bundling large sums to slip to the jurors or judges. Then why should we continue to allow private money to attempt to buy public election outcomes; to elect those who write the very laws our courts are maintained to uphold?
The very premise of private financing of public elections is foul. It amounts to vote buying. If you donate to a campaign, party, or even an issue advocacy group, you do so in the hope that ultimately, votes for a candidate, or legislation, will be cast as you prefer. That is vote buying.
This amendment proposal would make rational governing possible by using our First Amendment right to petition for amending our Constitution to make our First Amendment even stronger; by making political speech truly free. All citizens will have an equal opportunity to express their views. Ideas will have currency and value. It’s only money that will have no worth.
THEY DID IT, AND NOW, SO MUST WE
Don’t let anybody tell you that you are not in charge of your own government, or that you can’t amend your own Constitution. Here are four relevant examples of citizen led constitutional amendments: Women vote, thanks to the relentless and courageous actions of our mothers (mostly) to finally achieve our 19th Amendment; People elect their US Senators directly by popular vote (17th amendment); Poll taxes were prohibited by our 24th Amendment; If you’re old enough to die for your country, you’re old enough to vote (26th Amendment).
Change is possible when we remember our Constitution is indeed ours, and to use the rights it grants us, the rights we have fought and died to preserve, as they were intended to be used by our Framers. We have done it before; we can do it again. Let’s take a look at how our great grandparents, grandparents and parents did it (mothers, fathers, and parents henceforth). We can thank them for showing us the way, and giving us no excuses by way of setting an example with their own actions…just like good parents do. It is what we must now do for our children and grandchildren as well.
A tactical template and an object lesson: Our 17th Amendment
Our ingenious parents decided they’d had enough of their corrupt Senate. Embroiled for decades in blatant corruption, where the want of money over needs of people was on open vulgar display of greed reaching its absurdist most profane gilded-age flame-out. Scandalous cases of corruption; some of which were investigated, proving money passed hands for Senate seats stemming from settings in state capitals (cloak room cliché here), where at that time our US Senators were “chosen” by state legislatures. Our parents knew this was a fatally Faustian arrangement; and that it needed to stop. They also knew their history and their Constitution. So, to achieve the 17th Amendment they made ingenious use of a very ingeniously placed path to amend our Constitution (in Article V) by one of our more highly prescient Framers (George Mason), as a tactic to force the changes they needed on the very badly behaving Senate of theirs. This the tactic, forcing Congress to act when their practices and bad habits render them unable (like now), by demanding it through their state legislatures) we can use once again to achieve our 28th Amendment to finally get what we have so desperately needed since our nation began: to get money completely out of politics once and for all (more on this later: playing the Article V card).
Some historical postulators would have us believe that the Framers were so afraid of the great scythe and pitchfork wielding masses getting the upper hand as they had in the peasant rebellions – where the unspeakable ignominy was said to have been suffered, of perfectly good powdered wigs having to be hurriedly flung in the ditch by poor nobles lest they be spotted, chased down and, [unthinkabled] by angry peasants, that the Framers over-swaddled the Senate/American nobles with protection from potential peasant perturbation: Article I, Section. 3. of the Constitution: “The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, [chosen by the Legislature thereof,]…” Whatever the Framer’s motivation (original intent speculation is an inherently slippery slope due to its total reliance on speculation – and thereby faulty footing for well-reasoned, and consequential judicial decisions) – it would be laughable in a logical slap-stick kind of way, if it weren’t for the dire consequences a la’ “Citizen’s” and “Buckley”. The 17th Amendment was a great shot at fixing the Senate. However, it came up short of its intended goal; this is the object lesson and one name says it all – Rod Blagojevich – We owe it to ourselves, our children and all future generations to finish the job our parents started. By getting money out of politics once and for all, all the Rodney Bs go bye-bye.
The prolific and brilliant documentarist, Ken Burns, mused, “History doesn’t repeat itself, but human nature never changes”. Rod Blagojevich is living proof. The 17th Amendment sought to end the possibility of corrupt choosing of Senators (which had been the case many a time in deals made in the smoky state legislature halls in some of our states’ capitals buildings); hence the direct election of Senators by popular vote. But what if a Senator couldn’t complete [his] (this was pre-19th Amendment, so, yes, his) term? So, the 17ths authors came up with, “…When vacancies happen in the representation of any State in the Senate, the executive authority of such State shall issue writs of election to fill such vacancies: Provided, That the legislature of any state may empower the executive thereof to make temporary appointments until the people fill the vacancies by election as the legislature may direct.”
When Barack Obama vacated his Senate seat to become President that left then Illinois Governor Rodney, vying for the worst hairdo award with the Donald and the Reverend, “Blago”, Blagoje[vicious], yeah that guy, to infamously indict himself by brilliantly boasting while recorded, “I’ve got this thing and its fucking golden, and uh, uh, uh, [apparently searching for the next nugget] I’m not just giving it up for fuckin’ nothing. I’m not gonna do it. And, and I can always use it. I can parachute me there.” [presumably metaphorically speaking] to a better place than where he did in fact land and perhaps with a bit harder landing than he had been dreaming of “parachuting”…14 years in federal prison.
The object lesson learned is: If we are going to go to the extent of amending our constitution to end corruption (as we all agree, we must), then because human nature, particularly greed in the temptation rich environment that Money buying political influence produces, we better damn well make sure there are no loopholes, ambiguities, cracks or crevices. Zero is the answer, because zero is zero; it’s absolute and “can’t be cheated”. No money = No Blagos.
Playing the Article V convention card
We can amend our Constitution in two ways. Congress can send an amendment by a two-thirds vote in both houses on to the states legislatures where three-quarters of them must agree to ratify. The other is what we are calling the convention card. Two-thirds of the state legislatures apply to Congress to call a constitutional convention, at which amendments can be proposed to send to the states, where the same ¾ of the legislatures are required for ratification.
It is this method that our parents initiated, which gained enough momentum/leverage (two states short of the threshold and two more were on the way) to force their recalcitrant Senate to finally heed the inevitable and actually head-off the “specter” of a convention by suddenly finding enough votes to adopt the amendment and send it back to the states where it was quickly ratified, becoming our 17th Amendment. This is the template for the tactic we can also employ to achieve our 28th Amendment.
This tactic has six distinct advantages:
- It has been successfully used resulting in an amendment without the convention actually taking place. It is people power political leverage…a big stick with moral clout backed by constitutional authority.
- It gives everyone the opportunity to act. Everyone has a voice. Grass-roots with a plan.
- Your state legislators are easily reached; by definition they live in your hood. (Well, ok maybe not in sparsely populated rural areas, such as the one I live in, my lower house representative lives about 25 miles away – but then our definition of neighbor can include someone living at that distance too.) And that is what the petitioning is really all about; a conversation between neighbors.
- It’s guaranteed by our Constitution: Our 1st Amendment gives everyone the right to petition our government. Article V requires our Congress to call the convention if our state legislatures instruct them to do so with their applications.
- It’s an automatic fast-track to ratification. If a state makes an application to Congress to call for a convention to propose an amendment then it would doubtlessly vote for ratification as well.
- The petition process is peaceful and positive. It doesn’t require any memberships, fund-raising, money or lot of hullabaloo.
Article V convention card: History, Misconceptions and potential for misuse
Ambiguous language in our Constitution has led to many a misconception; no exception, Article V. We will try to clarify Article V as it pertains to the convention card by relying primarily on the work of four very highly regarded Constitutional history scholars, authors and professors: Sanford Levinson, University of Texas Law School; Lawrence Lessig, Harvard Law School; Michael Paulsen, University of St. Thomas School of Law; and Christopher Phillips, not currently connected to an esteemed institution like the others but no less brilliant, and founder of Democracy Café.
This is the pertinent portion of the text of Article V: “The Congress, whenever two thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose Amendments to this Constitution, or on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments, which, in either Case, shall be valid to all Intents and Purposes, as Part of this Constitution, when ratified…”
The topic and acknowledged need to create a method to amend the Constitution was fodder of a lot of documented back and forth at the convention according to The Records of the Federal Convention of 1787 (hereinafter: The Records). Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and of course George Mason were all on the Record with various writings and thoughts. The most salient of which, in our opinion, was Mason’s: on September 15th (just two days before the convention adjourned) according to the Record, “no amendments of the proper kind would ever be obtained by the people, if the Government should become oppressive, as he verily believed would be the case.” That must have struck a chord, because until that late hour Article V was set to follow Madison’s removal of the previously floated reference to the concept of calling a new convention, instead giving sole authority to Congress to propose amendments whenever it would, “deem necessary, or on the application of two-thirds of the several States.”
So, back to: “…or on Application of two-thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments…” it went for posterity, with unanimous approval. It’s sometimes referred to as Colonel Mason’s little gift. James Madison may have had the last laugh on this, however, according to the Record, “difficulties might arise as to the form” a new convention might take. Nobody at the convention thought to spell that out. Well, the Convention was at adjournment and even those patricians in attendance probably had things to attend to back home. They’d been at it for 3 months. Our constitution is replete with punts. Still, the lesson is: do whatever is humanly possible to eliminate ambiguities.
It is our contention that the highest and best use of the convention card is to propose exactly and, with highest degree of specificity, an exact text of the amendment, on a petition to your state legislators and to include that text in the state’s application to Congress, so there is no ambiguity. Here are several reasons why this approach is advisable.
It puts the unfounded fear of a “runaway convention” calamity where it belongs: out of the question. Some have tried to use runaway convention specter as a reason to reject playing the convention card, all together. They base their argument on the letter “s”; as in the plural: “…shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments…”. Are they trying to say proposing a single amendment, as was the case for the 17th, was not valid, or that at said convention proposals would just go on being proposed and proposed, ad infinitum simply because it is proposing amendments, not: consider an amendment – meaning what? You can’t offer just one proposal? This seems a bit like Bill Clinton’s grasping, “It depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is,” in his pathetic attempt to wiggle out of a Grand Jury question.
O.H., by the way >
Orrin Hatch, Senior Senator from Utah, and a bona fide Constitutional expert himself, finally laid the whole “run-away convention” gambit to rest, and it is his example that we have followed to propose a single amendment, text and all, with full confidence in its legitimacy.
Senator Hatch authored Senate Bill 40 – Constitutional Convention Implementation Act of 1985. His was an effort to lay the groundwork for the Balanced Budget Amendment, the latest legitimate example of playing the convention card, and model for our petition to state legislatures’ applications to Congress.
To give credit where its due: we never would have known of Orrin Hatch’s Bill if it weren’t, once again, for Lawrence Lessig and his citing of it in his seminal work on the Money’s ruinous effect on our poor body politic and, thereby everything else in our society. And we’ll also credit Dr. Lessig for handing us another nail for the “runaway convention” paranoia coffin. Ratification requires that the legislatures of three-fourths of our states approve with their own majority vote. So, if by a wild stretch the said convention ever were to convene, resulting in a whole mess of crazy un-called for amendment proposals, it would still have to surmount what is the even more wild stretch of unlikely outcomes that 38 state legislatures would say, “Yeah, we like all that crazy undemocratic nonsense” and vote to ratify.
The final nail comes from the most intrepid, honest and carefully critical “building inspector” of our Constitution, Sanford Levinson. Don’t let the title of his book, “Our Undemocratic Constitution” put you off. It is by no means negative. He just points out the structural deficiencies of our Constitution; the omissions and parts that might have passed building code 230 years ago, but are currently posing serious stress points that could lead to building collapse if not repaired. One of those is what Dr. Levinson refers to as, “the iron-cage”; Article V itself. The bars on constitutional amendments are so impenetrable that they lock-out necessary building improvements from being considered. However, as he points out that does not mean we should not try and he also believes the convention card is a key
But that doesn’t seem to prevent some very unnecessary amendments being proposed right at this time by dubious contractors out for self-enrichment and for a select circle of super wealthy trust fund manipulators who seem to very needy for more. Let us pull back the curtains.
Article Five Jive
Currently there is(are?) some seriously erroneous abuse(s) of the convention card, that we wish not to be associated with, or discredited by, merely for using the otherwise perfectly legitimate convention card (as mentioned above). For starters, our proposal is very specific; the proposed amendment for No Money Elections is in its full text ready for consideration. It’s quite clear that the purpose of the convention that might (or, more likely, might not) be called would be to to propose this one very specific amendment and that this would be the sole purpose of the said convention. Discussion and deliberation of its merits and possible improvements and changes would govern the agenda of the (again, quite hypothetical) convention, obviously. Our proposed use of the card is for leverage, like employed by our parents to get our 17th.
We don’t necessarily need a convention to achieve this. Though we do not, of course, oppose a convention either. Under the condition that this very specific proposal is the sole purpose for the said convention to convene; for discussion and deliberation by 102 delegates comprising 3 individuals, who had never previously held elected office, selected by the legislatures of the 34 states whose applications to Congress had required its convening. These 102 delegates shall be responsible for making the rules by which the proceedings to achieve the mandated amendment are governed, and which without further changes, the Congress shall send to the state legislatures for ratification. Under these favorable conditions there would be no reason to fear the convention or what it creates. It might be interesting and, (who knows?) maybe even fun.
We’re calling out one specific Case (study) for Convention of States (COS) namely, for scrutiny resulting from the need to show that all playing of the convention card does not automatically confer legitimacy; all uses are not equal nor worthy. Attempting to appropriate the convention card to amend our Constitution for personal enrichment is more than unworthy, it’s evil.
Funded by Citizens for Self-governance (more later, of course,) and their self-avowed, for the rich agenda, enveloped in a cloak of righteous indignation against BiGumint, with vague promises to return to original visions, and of course to reduce and even eliminate taxes. They use a shot-gun approach of some really in-your-face deals for the rich like, no taxes for “earned” income beyond a certain point; then they toss in term limits (which is not a bad idea of itself) and which has broad appeal (and why not?) – would some folks jump on the train here just for this, perhaps? So, maybe, since they missed the messages while “getting involved” i.e. donating, then they might not notice another for the (remember – hypothetical – convention in the sky) greedy grab-me more money now scams under the guise of something worthy: “Citizens for Self-governance” or “Citizens United” for example. Like so many of these fronts for Koch, they have a signature penchant for Orwellian double-speak. Upon contacting the organization they disavow any connection to the Koch brothers, yet all four members of the board of Citizens for Self-governance have well documented histories and have worked closely for and with the Kochs in the past according to Jane Mayer’s research in her highly academic, journalistic and revealing masterpiece, “Dark Money”. Are they afraid we’ll discover that the “wizards” behind the curtains are just two un-hinged consumed by greed – kooky Kochs? — who are playing a pretty cheap (for them) game of grab more. Is it hard to imagine this game scenario?: Charles Koch to Carl Icahn, “Hey Carl, grab your little Brooklyn nut job by his ducktail and perp push him into the back seat for his last limo ride to Mara Lago, would ya”. It would merely be a move in his game that could be made anytime, as soon as Trump no longer suits his “needs” (if we don’t impeach Trump first, that is).
Maybe they think that their lamprey-like attachment to the balanced budget amendment of yore might afford them some legitimacy, as with their attempt to bring in fans of term limits. But to parlay the balanced budget amendment into a chance to rid themselves of having their taxes raised, ever, is by all accounts, is a very kooky tactic, to steal more for themselves under a thin veil of associative legitimacy. Why not? They have pulled off some good ones to line their own pockets by cobbling together disparate interests, and blowing a lot of smoke stoked by inflammatory anti-government babble.
Keep in mind this is just a small facet of the Koch’s (relatively) cheap coup. One of many bets.
But damn-it, when the forces of evil are trying to use our tactics, we have to put aside the all peaceful, all positive, all truth, all the time, theme and borrow from Jane Mayer’s methodology and expose the Kochs for what they are. It’s almost as if this “Convention of States” Koch project is an attempt to channel all of the worst paranoid fears of the aforementioned “runaway” convention and roll it up into one bad nightmare. But to what end? To ruin it for others? Are they trying to claim the card as their own to make it unusable for other (worthy) proposals? If we were to amend our Constitution with something approaching our proposal, the Koch and cohorts game ends. It’s over. But they really should have no fear, because they’ll have the same free access to the Election and Legislative Forums and the same one vote, just like everyone else. They just won’t be able to spend money to amplify their voices over others or buy influence anymore, no less and no more. Zero, is zero. It makes all of us equal. Where positive, peaceful, true democracy can finally flourish, where we can govern ourselves with pride and dignity; to work together rationally, to meet our common needs in a more perfect union.
Our 19th Amendment: Our Mothers Know Best; Truth and Justice Shall Prevail When Good Women Persevere
Nothing could be more inspiring to us than the success of women’s suffrage. Our mothers had no political power, no money, nor any advantage at all, really. (Not so much as website, Facebook page, nor Twitter account even.) What they had was an undying belief in truth and justice through peaceful and positive perseverance.
They were, demeaned and disrespected; ridiculed and derided; fined and jailed; disowned and divorced. They lost time and time again in Congress. They were ruled against by the Supreme Court (Minor v. Happersett). Yet, they persevered. Inspired by the voting power of our Algonquin and Cherokee mothers, the giants of virtue from Angelina and Sarah Grimke’, to Elizabeth Cady Stanton, to Lucretia Mott, to Susan B. Anthony, to Lucy Stone, to Alice Paul, to Ida B. Wells, to Lucy Burns, to Carrie Chapman Catt, not to mention the generations of our dedicated mothers whose voices, petitions and participation, without whom these great achievements by constitutional amendment could never have been made, inspire us to move onward with our own earth moving amendment.
ENDING SAVERY, VOTING RIGHTS FOR WOMEN; AND WORKING FOR TRUTH, PUBLIC TRUST AND JUSTICE, ALL WHILE COMMITTED TO HEALING SOCIAL ILLS WERE THE TREMENDOUS ACCOMPLISHMENTS OF OUR MOTHERS.
Working with our enlightened fathers all over the earth from the early 19th century for nearly a century until suffrage was finally achieved in 1920, these parents of ours, who chose to persist, from one generation to the next in pursuit of fixing these fatal flaws in our society, got the job done with Constitutional Amendments 13 through 19.
And, now we must persist in pursuit of getting money out of our elections. The baton has been passed by our worthy parents since (1907) when President Roosevelt signed the first serious attempt at it, with an act of Congress outright prohibiting corporate donations to candidates in federal elections. (See our Sorry Saga Chapter, description of the Tillman Act.) So, we’re due. We’re just missing one well considered plan for the ultimate goal of healthy elections so we can govern ourselves in the best way we possibly can. What we offer here is a way to implement that. It’s time to finish the job our parents have been working on. Polls have consistently shown for years that vast bi-partisan majorities (some over 80%) of us know that money corrupts our elections (its painfully obvious to all, really) and we want it fixed. What are we waiting for?
OUR 24th AMENDMENT; NO MORE POLL TAXES – SOMETIMES IT TAKES A CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT TO GET THE JOB DONE
Racism is an evil that manifests itself in many ways and remains very difficult to eradicate. Despite the clear and unambiguous language of our 15th Amendment, [The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.], certain states of the old confederacy, nonetheless found ways to circumvent it through spurious legislation. Cowardly crouching behind the thin shrub of Section 4. Article I of our Constitution, giving state legislatures authority to make election rules, in the late 19th century the legislatures of these outlaw states enacted “white primaries” and poll taxes to suppress voting by minorities, apparently, having convinced themselves, they could use these means to perpetuate white supremacy. Believing they were hiding behind legal pretense and pretending the rest of Section 4. Article I […the Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such Regulations…] (those election rules made by state legislatures) either did not exist or wouldn’t be used…?
But the rest of the nation could easily see the low poll tax for what it was; vote stealing. First, in in 1937, the Supreme Court, as is their habitual wont, (see our chapter, “The Ironic role of the Supreme Court”) ruled in Breedlove v. Suttles (to let states hide behind the first clause of I, 4. and continue to steal votes with poll taxes) to set itself up to be overturned and, ironically forcing a constitutional amendment to rid ourselves of this evil — vote stealing (to perpetuate white supremacy…?!). Our Congress got to work on it in, citing its Constitutional authority per Article I, Section 4. (the 2nd clause), and with a forceful discharge petition, forced a floor vote of 254 to 84 passed a bill abolishing vote stealing via poll tax on to the Senate, so sinful southern seniority shenanigans shut the door (filibustered) 1939 – round one. Round after round the Congress tried land the blow, came real close – only to be filibustered before the bell. Our parents made their voices heard all across the nation and their representatives in Congress and in State Capitals acted on their behalf. This became a core civil rights cause. If the Congress couldn’t surmount its own bad party ways, our folks started to look at those amendment gloves their parents had used. Now they needed to find someone who would pull the amendment gloves on.
Finally, our parents voted in a President who promised to make a Poll tax amendment happen (with just a little helpful persuasion from one MLK). JFK stepped in to the ring, and, making good on his promise, hectored the Congress to send the poll tax abolishing amendment on to the states, which it did, and which was summarily ratified in a little over a year. Sometimes it just takes an Amendment. Please people, pick up on our parents’ pluck and perseverance and powerfully, peacefully, with a positive petition for a Constitutional cure, to govern ourselves purposefully and proudly, make this happen. Money makes mockery of democracy. All it takes is for us to exercise our First amendment right to petition our government and call for the amendment we need to get money out of our elections once and for all. And that will make a whole lot of positive change possible. It is THE, crucial, first step.
OUR 26th AMENDMENT; IF YOUR OLD ENOUGH TO DIE FOR OUR COUNTRY, YOU’RE OLD ENOUGH TO VOTE; AMENDMENTS CAN HAPPEN FAST
The Amendments we have just been discussing were the crowning culmination of generational perseverance. Truth and Justice will always win eventually. But we don’t have to wait around for some magical tipping point. Our parents weren’t about to be denied the basic right to vote if they were going to be forced to fight in a war they did not believe in. They knew the power of the vote was needed to end the insanity of the Viet Nam disaster. So back to the Constitution they went and got themselves an Amendment to settle the issue fairly. “old enough to die, old enough to vote” became a demand that couldn’t be denied.
The usual plot line unfolded again but on a much quicker timeline than our previous examples, simply because our parents kept the heat on. As per usual, Congress was ultimately unable to deliver because the parties couldn’t overcome being parties (refer again to our Chapter: Party and Divide: ungoverned and unauthorized). But, surprisingly, in 1970 TEK proposed and muscled an amendment to the Voting Rights Act through the Senate lowering the voting age to 18, in state and federal elections. Knowing his veto would be over-ruled Dick Nixon signed it into law on June 22, 1970. A success? Not quite.
Not until the Supremes got involved. They yet again, as if scripted by the same sadistic satirist stymied themselves into a logical impossibility (see a pattern here, maybe? If not, check out our: The Ironic Role of the Supreme Court, chapter.)
For reasons unknown, a state attorney general or two will challenge Congressional Acts, maybe, just because they can, sometimes…? And sadly, again, it all goes back to the inherent inadequacy of Article I, Section 4. As we have pointed out, the Framers’, having little or no practical experience, left the logistics of elections by sort of punting it to the state legislatures to figure out and run. But they left the Congress the ultimate authority over election “Regulations” in the 2nd clause of Section 4.
So, when the Oregon attorney general immediately challenged the aforementioned voting age lowering amendment of 1970 to The Voting Rights Act as an unconstitutional infringement of the state legislature’s authority to govern its own elections pursuant to Article I Sec.4. (as per the 1st clause). Instead of simply exercising its option of not taking up the case, the Supremes instead took it up and made a mess, as we have shown with so many other decisions, is like a bad habit. This time they split the 2 clauses of Section 4. evenly, authorizing the State of Oregon to determine the voting age in state and local elections while allowing the Congressional Act lowering the voting age to 18, to stand, but just in federal elections. This in the same year of 1970.
Of course, this resulted in an unworkable situation for states to potentially have to administer 2 separate sets of ballots for voters 18 to 21 years of age. Our parents would have none of this vote splitting silliness. Once again, the only recourse left was a constitutional amendment. Our parents demanded that voting rights of citizens not be denied those old enough to be asked to make the ultimate sacrifice. In just about the time of a term of a healthy human pregnancy, from the time Nixon signed the Act, including the Supreme Court’s fumble, the amendment was proposed and, the 24th Amendment was ratified by the required 38 states.
The lesson here is that citizen involvement works. It really works, and it can be quick, if we citizens say it must be so. Our parents showed us this by example, and we can do it too. It only requires a simple exercise of our First Amendment right to petition. Three signed copies: send one to your Representative in your State House of Representatives, and send one to your State Senator via good old US mail, and keep one copy for yourself (show your friends and post on-line in social media?). Go for it. It’s completely free and easy; no donations, no rallies, no negativity.