Let’s Amend the Constitution

Forget the politicians, how do Americans want to change the Constitution?

From 1789 to 2019, approximately 11,770 measures have been proposed to amend the Constitution. Congress sent 33 of the proposed Amendments to the States for ratification. Of those, 27 have been ratified: 11 in the 1700s, 4 in the 1800s, and 12 in the 1900s. The six Amendments that were never ratified are:

  • Congressional Apportionment Amendment, 1789
  • Titles of Nobility Amendment, 1810
  • Corwin (pro-slavery) Amendment, 1861
  • Child Labor Amendment, 1924
  • Equal Rights Amendment, 1972
  • District of Columbia Voting Rights Amendment, 1978.

I had just turned 18 in 1971 when the 26th Amendment was ratified giving me the right to vote for George McGovern. Richard Nixon won, resigned after Watergate, and the country hasn’t been the same since. But, I learned how a change in a 200 year old document could change lives.

What Could Go Wrong?

Amending the U.S. Constitution is a difficult task. The usual method requires that a proposed change be adopted by two-thirds votes of both Houses of Congress, and then ratified by 38 State legislatures, usually within a stipulated time period.

In today’s divided government, there is little chance of this happening. Both sides fear what might happen when a proposed Amendment that they favor is exposed to the machinations of their opponents. They believe that the dysfunction of the status quo is better than the evil that might come from a change.

What Could Go Right?

But there are quite a few issues that do need to be addressed by Constitutional Amendments. We don’t all agree on what the changes should be, but most of us agree that changes should be made. The status quo is not working. That said, here are 18 ideas for amending the Constitution. Two have been adopted but not ratified — the Congressional Apportionment Amendment in 1789 and the Equal Rights Amendment in 1972. Ten of the others have been proposed multiple times in different forms but never adopted by Congress. Six of the Amendments have never been proposed to Congress, as far as I know.

1. Balanced Budget Amendment. This amendment would require Congress and the President to balance the Federal budget every year. This amendment has been proposed many times.

2. Campaign Finance Reform Amendment. This amendment would place limitations on how candidates for Federal office could raise and use funds to be used in their campaigns. This has been proposed in many forms at many times.

3. Congressional Term-Limit Amendment. This amendment would limit Senators and Representatives to three terms and change the terms of Representatives from two years to four years. This amendment has been proposed several times in different forms.

4. Corporate Personhood Amendment. This amendment would prevent the government from providing any right specified in the Constitution to a non-organic, non-living, non-sentient entity.

5. Economic Bill of Rights. Proposed by FDR in 1944, this amendment would guarantee all citizen the rights to employment, a fair income, freedom from unfair business practices, housing, medical care, secure retirement, and education.

6. Electoral College Replacement AmendmentThis amendment would replace the current Electoral College with either a simpler two-round system or abolish it entirely in favor of a direct vote for the Presidency. This amendment has been proposed several times in different forms.

7. Equal Rights Amendment. “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.” This was originally proposed in 1972.

8. Federal Elections Amendment. This amendment would require the Federal government to expand voter participation by providing tax deductions for voting and funding States to provide adequate polling places and voting equipment, allowing vote-by-mail, and clarifying the schedules for voting and vote counting. This Amendment has not been proposed to Congress (AFAIK).

9. Government Funding Amendment. This amendment would require the Federal government to fund its operations from a national tax on all financial transactions including consumer sales, stock purchases, corporate mergers, estate transfers, capital gains, and so on. The income tax would be abolished.

Image for post
Repeal of Prohibition by Kent Wang is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

10. Gun Ownership and Use Amendment. This amendment would repeal the 2nd and 3rd Amendments and replace them with a clear statement requiring the government to research and regulate gun ownership to minimize violence without unnecessarily restricting the ability of qualified individuals to own and use firearms. This Amendment has not been proposed to Congress (AFAIK).

11. Human Life Amendment. This amendment would overturn the Roe v. Wade court ruling and prohibit abortion. This amendment has been proposed many times.

12. Military Constraint Amendment. This amendment would require the Federal government to limit all spending on defense, including interest from prior military engagements, to less than 50% of the Federal budget. This Amendment has not been proposed to Congress (AFAIK).

13. Minimum-Maximum Income Amendment. This amendment would require the Federal government to implement a national basic income with a minimum wage tied to it, eliminate all Federal taxation of individuals with incomes below the poverty level, and establish a surtax for those in the top 10% of wealth. This Amendment has not been proposed to Congress (AFAIK).

14. Opportunity to Govern Amendment. This amendment would allow naturalized citizens who have been U.S. citizens for at least twenty years, to become President or Vice President of the United States. This Amendment was proposed in 2003.

15. Representation Realignment Amendment. This amendment would require the Federal government to apportion votes in the House of Representatives to States according to their populations determined in the latest census (e.g., 1 vote for every 250,000 constituents). Federal office space for individual representatives would be allocated by tax income from the States.

16. SCOTUS Reorganization Amendment. This amendment would expand the Court to 15 members — 6 selected by Republicans, 6 selected by Democrats, and 3 selected by members of the Court. The Chief Justice would be elected annually by the 15 members of the Court. This Amendment has not been proposed to Congress (AFAIK).

17. USPS Enablement Amendment. This amendment would require the Federal government to remove restrictions and provide conditions that will enable the USPS to achieve and maintain a revenue-neutral position. This Amendment has not been proposed to Congress (AFAIK).

18. War Referendum Amendment. This amendment would require the Federal government to conduct a national referendum to confirm any declaration of war. It was originally proposed in 1937.

What Do You Think?

Which of the following 18 proposals for Amendments to the U.S. Constitution would you most like to be considered by Congress for adoption? Indicate your preferences as:

  • FAVOR — Definitely would support.
  • NO OPINION — Ambivalent. Don’t care. Figure it out when it gets adopted.
  • OPPOSE — Would NOT support.

Mention in the comments which of the proposed Amendments is your favorite. Also comment in what other Amendment you would propose.

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