YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Change won't be easy, but how would you amend the Constitution?

March 10, 2014|By Scott Martelle
(Los Angeles Times )

So if you could amend the U.S. Constitution, what would you push for? Abolishing money in political campaigns? Adding protections for the unborn (thus trumping Roe v. Wade)? A chicken in every pot?

The National Constitution Center in Philadelphia last month conducted a “27 Amendments (in 27 Days)” program that included a crowd-sourced proposal for a 28th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The heart of the program was an educational bit about each of the amendments, but it also gathered suggestions from visitors to the center and via social media about what they would like the next amendment to ban, or protect.

The most-cited subjects among the 221 submissions were then discussed in a public program Feb. 28 and put to a vote. The winner: Term limits for Congress, which makes sense, given the utter disdain with which most people view Congress (though if you think it’s bad now, imagine what it would be if all the institutional knowledge was in the heads of staffers and lobbyists).

Other proposed amendments included the personal (high school visitors to the center offered, “Mrs. Johnson is our ruler”) and the political, such as ending partisan gerrymandering, repealing the 17th Amendment that established direct election of senators, cutting the pay for government officials and gender and marriage-equality amendments. And there were suggestions that a new amendment trump the 2nd Amendment, unambiguously allowing regulation of guns.

Of course, this was an education program, not an exercise of democracy. Amending the Constitution is no easy task. Unless there’s a Constitutional convention, which requires the support of two-thirds of the state legislatures, an amendment must be approved by a two-thirds vote of the Senate and of the House, and then be ratified by three-quarters of the 50 states (that’s 38).

The final tallies, according to National Constitution Center spokesperson Lauren Saul, was 18 for term limits, 11 each for finance reform and eliminating “corporate person-hood (a legacy of the Citizens United decision by the Supreme Court), and 10 votes for abolishing the Electoral College.

And yes, that’s not a whole lot of votes cast for our next Constitutional amendment, but that’s the number of folks who showed up for the Feb. 28 program. Which, come to think about, says a lot about our national democratic involvement: Fewer than six in 10 eligible voters cast ballots in 2012.


The president's power grab

The plight of Myanmar's Rohingya

Hire like Google? For most companies, that's a bad idea.

Follow Scott Martelle on Twitter @smartelle

Los Angeles Times Articles