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The Need for a New Constitutional Amendment Regarding the Choosing of Federal Representatives [197*8]

Updated on March 6, 2015



IN 1787, WHEN 55 MEN GATHERED IN PHILADELPHIA to write a Constitution which would create a new nation. One of the principal hopes, if not goals, of each was to contruct it in such a way as to minimize political factionalism at the federal level. They understood very well the power of factionalism to destroy, for that was why they were in Philadelphia holding a Constitutinal Convention. They had already seen how political factions made mute the Continental Congress and any idea of a united nation, in fact, they witnessed how factions nearly cost the colonies their War of Independence with England. These precient men didn't want to see that happening again if they could help it.

At the writing of the Constitutionl, many compromises had to made, especially with regard to insuring State passage. Consequently, often only guiding principles were laid out with no direction to the States on how to implement them; on such principle was the apportionment of State citizens for the purpose of electing State representatives to the House of Representatives. All the Constitution currently provides in Article i, Section 4 is that:

The Times, Places, and Manners of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such regulations, except as to the Places for Elections of chusing Senators.

Notice the underlined phrase. It was argued by several members to strike this phrase out; clearly it wasn't. One of the reason's it wasn't is James Madison's thinking:

The necessity of a Genl. Govt. supposes that the State Legislatures will sometimes fail or refuse to consult the common interest at the expense of their local conveniency or prejudices. The policy of referring the appointment of the House of Representatives to the people and not to the Legislatures of the States, supposes that the result will be somewhat influenced by the mode, This view of the question seems to decide that the Legislatures of the States ought not to have the uncontrouled right of regulating the times places & manner of holding elections. These were words of great latitude. It was impossible to foresee all the abuses that might be made of the discretionary power. Whether the electors should vote by ballot or vivâ voce, should assemble at this place or that place; should be divided into districts or all meet at one place, shd all vote for all the representatives; or all in a district vote for a number allotted to the district; these & many other points would depend on the Legislatures. and might materially affect the appointments. Whenever the State Legislatures had a favorite measure to carry, they would take care so to mould their regulations as to favor the candidates they wished to succeed. Besides, the inequality of the Representation in the Legislatures of particular States, would produce a like inequality in their representation in the Natl. Legislature, as it was presumable that the Counties having the power in the former case would secure it to themselves in the latter. What danger could there be in giving a controuling power to the Natl. Legislature? Of whom was it to consist? 1. of a Senate to be chosen by the State Legislatures. If the latter therefore could be trusted, their representatives could not be dangerous. 2. of Representatives elected by the same people who elect the State Legislatures; surely then if confidence is due to the latter, it must be due to the former. It seemed as improper in principle--though it might be less inconvenient in practice, to give to the State Legislatures this great authority over the election of the Representatives of the people in the Genl. Legislature, as it would be to give to the latter a like power over the election of their Representatives in the State Legislatures.

Madison's worries seem to have come to fruitiong in this country today with the misuse of several states, haven't they. But if Congress has the power to remedy it by Law, why do we need a Constitutional amendment?

There are two reasons, 1) Congress hasn't done anything permanently to address the core abuse and 2) any law they pass, can be un-passed. It is not that Congress has never used authority given to them in Article 1, Section 4, they have. The use of this authority is why the Presidential election falls on the same day in every state, why each state has exactly the same number of election districts as they have representatives, and why only one representative can be elected from each district. One "Passed/Un-Passed" law was the requirement for states to that districts be composed of contiguous territory, be "compact," and have equal populations within each State. Congress then let this law lapse. The only part in operation today is the equal population clause due to a Supreme Court ruling involving equal protection.


Amendents Normally Begin in Congress; however, Is There a Way for the People to get an Amendment Introduced?

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THERE ARE TWO WAYS for a Constitutional Amendment to become a reality, and neither of them have anything to do with the President. They are through a joint resolution of Congress and by the call for a Constitutional Convention by 2/3 of State legislatures. The latter course has never been tried since the original Convention, but the former method has been invoked more than 27 times leading to the current set of 27 Amendments currently on the books.

Notice that the People, as a direct motive force, are left out of the process, as is properly the case in a republican form of government. Why is this so? Because the People express their wishes and desires through the representatives they elect to both state and federal governments; if the People want a Constitutional Amendment to happen, they must elect representatives who support that idea. Consequently, the answer to poll is that "No, there is no direct way to make this happen".

In any case, the most common way is for 2/3rds of each House to agree to a joint resolution to propose the Amendment. From there, it goes to the National Archives and Records Administration, specifically the Archivist of the United States, and lately, the Director of the Federal Registry (who knew this?), for administration of the ratification process. The Archivists then submits the proposed Amendment to the State's governors who then submits it to their respective Legislatures. Once 3/4s of the State legislatures ratify the Amendment, and it has been certified by the Archivist, the Amendment is passed; there is no practical time limit for this to happen.




OK, NOW THAT I HAVE SAID ALL OF THAT, what is it that I propose we do about it? I propose, of course, that Congress pass a joint resolution for the 28th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States that reads as follows:

1. The Manner of Holding Elections for Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof insofar as it also provides for equal representation by each member; that each election district be of regular shape and without regard to the political make-up; the election districts be constructed in such manner as to allow for, should the People so chose, the election of Representatives in the same ethnic proportion as that contained in the State as a whole.

2. This Amendment shall not contravene any other Article in the Constitution

3. The Congress shall have the power to enforce the article with appropriate legislation.

I AM NOT SURE OF MY WORDING of that last requirement, "the election districts be constructed in such manner as to allow for, should the People so chose, the election of Representatives in the same ethnic proportion as that contained in the State as a whole." My intent is the construction of the election districts encompass the population so that if candidates representing all ethnic groups actual ran in most of the districts, that when the dust settled, there would be a reasonable chance the ethnic make-up of that States delegation approximates the ethnic make-up of the State as a whole. Of course, as the states population shrinks, and therefore its delegation count, mathematically, this becomes more difficult, but the point is the boundary lines are drawn so as not to exclude one group or another overall.

IT SHOULD BE CLEAR TO ALL that the need for this kind of Amendment (or action from Congress) is critical to the effective operation of our nation. If this Amendment were in place, we would not be facing the gridlock we have been in since 2009 as states like Texas would not have been able to Gerrymander hard-core Conservatives into power - the very thing James Madison warned us against (not that he cared that it was Conservatives, only that it was a faction).

Are politicians going to do anything about this? Probably not. It is left to the People, fed up with the way things are, that can effectuate any change; and that is a tough row to hoe, for sure. Its tough, because as I showed earlier, the People do not have a direct method of putting an Amendment on the floor (and, having said that, it is probably a good thing in the long-run that we cant'); therefore our only method is through pressure and the election process.

People have to let their representatives know this is what they want, and then keep letting them know. When candidates are electioneering, ask them where they stand on the issue and what do they intend on doing about it. I wonder how many of them know they actually can do something by simply passing a law? Pressure, and direct amendments can be brought at the State level as well. Several states have now switched to a form of non-partisan redistricting where politics has largely been removed and the process has been brought more in line with the original concept in the Constitution's writers had in mind.

One thing is certain, however, if you do nothing, then it will be politics as usual and you have only yourself to blame.


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    • My Esoteric profile imageAUTHOR

      Scott Belford 

      5 years ago from Keystone Heights, FL

      I couldn't agree more.

    • FitnezzJim profile image


      5 years ago from Fredericksburg, Virginia

      Interesting. I went back and read my March 4, 1789 copy of the original twelve proposed amendments to the Constitution (became the Bill of Rights), and neither word appears there either. My interpretations tend to be unique. That said, my guess would be the writers sought to convey gist of the message under the assumption that good faith discourse between honest and well-intentioned people would serve as the basis for government debate and interactions.

      We do not have that today, instead we have finger-pointing, name-calling, and King-of-the-Hill climbing, all to an audience who is willing to cheer their side on while watching the show. The one thing football and politics have in common is this; the only ones who pay are the spectators. The players, coaches, and any who cater to the spectators’ enjoyment will profit from the game. The founders did not anticipate government being played out as a circus.

      I went back and re-read Article IV, section 3 - concur it would be difficult, but would still say it is the next logical step.

    • My Esoteric profile imageAUTHOR

      Scott Belford 

      5 years ago from Keystone Heights, FL

      What say you about the Supremacy Clause in the Constitution and the fact that the word "expressly" or "explicitly" which was used in Article 2 of the Articles of Confederation was purposely dropped from the 10th Amendment or this quote from the Notes on the Constitutional Convention from James Madison contained in a hub I wrote based on those notes:

      "Gov Morris, George Mason (VA), and Roger Sherman (CT) made the following points:

      "the distinction between a federal and national, supreme, Govt.; the former being a mere compact resting on the good faith of the parties; the latter having a compleat and compulsive operation. He [Morris] contended that in all Communities there must be one supreme power, and one only".

      [George Mason (VA)] "that the present confederation was not only deficient in not providing for coercion & punishment agst. delinquent States; but argued very cogently that punishment could not in the nature of things be executed on the States collectively, and therefore that such a Govt. was necessary as could directly operate on individuals, and would punish those only whose guilt required it.", and

      that "the Confederation had not given sufficient power to Congs. and that additional powers were necessary; particularly that of raising money which he [Sherman] said would involve many other powers. He admitted also that the General & particular jurisdictions ought in no case to be concurrent."

      Note that having said what he did, George Mason went on to oppose the resulting Constitution because he thought it gave too much power to the central government over the States.

      As to restructuring the State borders, that will be tough as the process is clearly defined in the Constitution, and a lot of people, including Congress, have to agree on any change.

    • FitnezzJim profile image


      5 years ago from Fredericksburg, Virginia

      I concur that our founders intended the system they developed to be impartial to party. The founders also did not intend for our various sovereign States to be subservient to the federal system. However, that has evolved (beginning in April 1913). Political parties now rule and States are irrelevant with respect to formation of federal law. Many of my articles are about the deterioration of States Representation and how it has become secondary to Party Representation in the Senate, or about steps that could be taken to restore States balance to our system.

      With respect to the phrase “restructuring of the States borders”, I refer to a possible future where State borders are subjected to the same sort of gerrymandering that occurs within our individual states now. From my point of view, that is the next logical step for the path we are on.

      Healthcare is not the problem. However, its manner of implementation is a symptom of a broken system of governance.

    • My Esoteric profile imageAUTHOR

      Scott Belford 

      5 years ago from Keystone Heights, FL

      Thank you for your thoughts @FitnezzJim, but I am not sure what you mean by "restructuring of the States borders".

      There is no question about the need to reallocate representatives every census because states gain or lose population. It is the manner in which this is done that I am concerned with. Our founders intended it to be impartial as to Party because at the time they drew up the Constitution, they didn't envision political parties in the first place; they thought they were a very bad idea.

    • FitnezzJim profile image


      5 years ago from Fredericksburg, Virginia

      While you are at it, you might want to also consider an Amendment that prohibits major restructuring of the States borders, which would affect how Senators are elected.

      And as added notes on the process: The way the representatives to the peoples House of Congress are allocated pretty much implies that districts within States be redrawn on occasion. Also, the addition of a State would drive a need to reallocate representatives. Both potentially impact the total number of representatives that a State can send to Congress.

    • MizBejabbers profile image

      Doris James MizBejabbers 

      6 years ago from Beautiful South

      The same thing happened in Arkansas a few years ago because of a huge population shift from the poverty stricken Delta to the fast growing conservative and Hispanic hub around the Northwest corner. There were some compromises made because of the reaction from the people of Central Arkansas, but we weren't able to stop all the Gerrymandering.

    • My Esoteric profile imageAUTHOR

      Scott Belford 

      6 years ago from Keystone Heights, FL

      I appreciate the thoughts, HS, I am going set it up as a White House petition.

    • profile image

      Howard Schneider 

      6 years ago from Parsippany, New Jersey

      I certainly would be in support of this Constitutional Amendment, My Esoteric. The gerrymandering that goes on in the states by both parties is horrendous. Of course, it began to be done to the real extreme in Texas after the 2000 census. Tom DeLay engineered that massacre of Democratic and minority districts. This was the most obvious form of a naked power play. He has no conscience. Now the GOP have all learned from this and they made similar moves after the 2010 census. This needs to stop on all sides. Excellent Hub and proposal.


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