24 August 2020

Shifting The Constitutional Balance of Power

The U.S. Constitution specifically places a huge barrier to fixing one of the biggest problems with the U.S. Constitution, the equal number of Senators for each state in the U.S. Senate without regard to population, which is also part of the problem with the Electoral College. Article V of the U.S. Constitution (emphasis added; spent language shown stricken out) states:
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 by the Legislatures of three fourths of the several States, or by Conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other Mode of Ratification may be proposed by the Congress; 
Provided that no Amendment which may be made prior to the Year One thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any Manner affect the first and fourth Clauses in the Ninth Section of the first Article; and that no State, without its Consent, shall be deprived of its equal Suffrage in the Senate.
The U.S. Constitution doesn't leave us without other possible solutions to our nation's political woes, however.  

The near elimination of the filibuster for some matters in the U.S. Senate, and clear pathway for future majorities in the U.S. Senate to do the same has reduced the percentage of the population that can hold back Democratic majorities.

Adding States

Progress towards addressing the inequity of the U.S. Senate and Electoral College could be made by adding new U.S. States. 

The District of Columbia and Puerto Rico are the obvious choices. This would add four Democratic U.S. Senators and shift the balance of the U.S. House to the left.

Other U.S. territories could be added as states but all of them have far fewer people than Wyoming (the smallest U.S. state in population), unlike the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico which have more than the population of the smallest U.S. state and are predominantly non-white yet lack any representation in Congress. 

The District of Columbia has 22% more people than Wyoming (it also had more people than Vermont). Puerto Rico with an estimated 2020 population of 3.2 million which is more than twenty-U..S. states) also lacks any representation in the Electoral College while U.S. states with its population have four seats in the U.S. House and  six electoral votes.

Guam has 29% of the population of Wyoming and the U.S. Virgin Islands has 18%. The Northern Mariana Islands and American Samoa, respectively, have about 9% of the population of Wyoming each. The four jurisdictions combined have less than two-thirds of the population of Wyoming. 

California could be broken up into two to six more states, mitigating the worst problem created by the Electoral College and equal representative in the U.S. Senate with a proposal that has some support within California.

This would reduce the power of the Democrats in the U.S. Senate if all three of the competitive states elected two Republicans to the U.S. Senate, and would break even if one of the new six U.S. Senate seats in competitive states went to Democrats and five went to Republicans. A net gain of two Democratic seats in the U.S. Senate would be par for the course in this proposal. 

Collectively, the proposal would also add ten U.S. Senators from California, and ten electoral votes to California. In the Electoral College, the gain of ten additional Electors for the region would be offset by the fact that they would not vote monolithically, causing the net number of Democratic Electoral votes to decline in many years. But the presence of three competitive states in what was California would shift the focus of Presidential campaigns to the West.

All of the resulting states would be in the middle range of populations of existing U.S. states.

Proposals are in the works to have participating states to the popular vote winner, rather than to the the winner of the majority of the vote in a particular state.

Changing Election Methods

Statutory change could authorize selection of a state's U.S. House seats by proportional representation, or to require a majority vote (either via a runoff or ranked choice voting) to win single member district seats in the U.S. Senate.

This would allow the U.S. to develop a true multi-party system and would also increase the incentives of individuals who are minorities politically in their districts to vote.

Changing Presidential Disability Delcaration.

A statutory process for removal of the President for disability other than the default in the U.S. Constitution pursuant to Section 4 of the Twenty-Fourth Amendment could be adopted. Section 4 states (emphasis added) that:
Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President.

Other Constitutional Amendments 

The U.S. Constitution also doesn't prohibit amendments that would:

Reduce the power of the Presidency:

* Remove the Presidential veto, or remove the majority required to overturn it.
* Expand the reasons for which the President can be impeached (e.g. for failing to faithfully execute the laws).
* Reduce the majority required in the U.S. Senate to remove the President (or other federal government officials) from office in a trial of an impeachment, to as little as a majority.
* Authorize legislative vetos of new regulations.

Reduce the authority of the U.S. Senate relative to the U.S. House:

* Require Article III judicial appointments to be approved by both the U.S. House and U.S. Senate.
* Require the U.S. Senate to vote on bills presented to it by the U.S. House within a certain amount of time, without which the bill would be passed without U.S. Senate action.
*  Allow bills that must originate in the U.S. House to be made law without U.S. Senate consideration.

I believe that a Constitutional Amendment could authorize the direct election of the President in lieu of the Electoral College.

A U.S. Constitutional amendment to give every U.S. territory a number of seats in Congress proportional to its population and not less than one seat, would be fair.

I like the idea of allocating seats to states in Congress based upon average turnout in the last five elections, while requiring census results to apportion seats within states (if gerrymandering isn't rendered obsolete by proportional representation, instead), although this would require a constitutional amendment.


Dave Barnes said...

What about adding the Canadian provinces?
We can sell Puerto Rico to the UK in exchange for Canada.

andrew said...