We the people

I started a petition to demand a new amendment to the constitution. The amendment strips the power to manipulate elections from the politicians and political parties and makes the presidency and congress truly representative of the people.

The political landscape in this country has become polarized to cater to the most extreme and the politically connected rich. The election process has been systematically hijacked and engineered to this exact goal. Winner take all. You are with us or you are against us. My way or the highway. It is a zero-sum game that no longer represents the nation.

In order to fix the system, we must first replace the foundations of the system. With a better foundation, we can then build an even stronger country. The foundation is the election process from top to bottom. By taking away the ability to manipulate and rig the election process, we can then elect politicians who represent all of the people and who are more accountable to the people than to the moneyed interests or the extreme elements.

The first words of the constitution are “We the People of the United States”. Not “We the Parties”, “We the Politicians”, or “We the Politically connected”. Since the founding of this country, those with power have worked tirelessly to take the power from the people. Our democracy is not representative. It has never been truly representative of all of the people. The current dysfunction within the federal and state governments, punctuated by the federal government shutdown, and the inequality within society show just how far we have gotten from the people.

It is time for a revolution. A revolution of thought. A revolution of process. In order to divest power from the few and giving it to the people, we must start with the election process. The time has come to make our democracy truly representative of all of the people. Political parties and politicians must no longer be able to manipulate the election process for self gain. A true democracy stands on the simple principle of one person, one vote, no exceptions.

The purpose of this petition is to give the power of the vote and elections unequivocally and irrevocably to the people.

Here are the provisions of the petition and the reasons for them.

Section 1: Election of the President and Vice President.

1) The electoral college shall be abolished. The President and Vice President shall be elected by the direct vote of the people.

Most people, including the politicians, agree that the electoral college is an outdated system that has no place in modern elections. Creating a constitutional amendment just for this is not considered a priority and thus, it never happens.

There are many reasons the founders created the electoral college to begin with. None of them are valid in modern elections.

1) The founders did not trust an uneducated, illiterate, and uninformed public who had illiteracy rates as high as 80%. With the 2 year presidential election cycle, 24 hour news reporting on what the candidates had for breakfast, the public is over-informed (or mis-informed). Every person has some form of access to media if they wish it. This is not a valid concern.

2) The founders did not want regional candidates to end up in the highest office. Meaning they didn’t want a candidate to be able to only campaign from Maryland to Georgia to get enough votes to win. Kind of like the way candidates now just campaign in swing states and ignore the rest of the country.

What the electoral college does do in modern election is freeze out 3rd party candidates. The 2 major parties have created many rules around needing electoral college votes. From being placed on the ballot to being allowed to participate in debates and funding rules. The bar has been set very high to ensure that even parties who do well can continually be excluded from elections. Perot got 20% of the popular vote, but 0 electoral votes. That is why there is no political will to fix an obviously broken system. The system favors those in power who have a simple us versus them system set up. No need to deal with new ideas.

In addition, due to the disproportionate numbers of representatives in the House and each state having 2 senators, votes in smaller states actually count more than votes in larger states. And with the “winner take all” system in most states, those who are not in the majority voting have their votes effectively dropped leading to large scale disenfranchisement.

We have one President for one country. The President represents all of us, therefore, every vote should be counted and should count equally. One person, one vote, no exceptions.

2) Votes for President and Vice President shall be cast separately.

This is fairly obvious. We should have the option to vote for candidates from different parties if we choose. The electoral college prevents this now (without using write-in votes) by requiring that we vote for one elector for both. It should be our choice, not theirs. If the people want a split ticket, then people should be able to vote for a split ticket. It should not be left to the parties to demand from us that we only do things their way.

Section 2: The house of representatives.

1) The number of representatives for each state shall be the number of whole multiples of the population of the smallest state as determined by the latest census.

The House of Representatives has a fixed number of seats, 435, as created by the Apportionment Act of 1911. This results in a disproportionate number of electors in presidential elections and means that the voice (vote) of a person in some states is actually more important than that of other states. The power to set their own numbers is given to the House of Representatives in the constitution under Article I, Section 2, clause 3 and later amended by the 14th amendment to count every person as a whole person.

The House of Representatives, as its name suggest, is supposed to be representative of the people. It is “majority rules”. The Senate has equal representation in order to protect the minority from the majority mob and to represent the interests of the states themselves. However, the House is not really representative of the people. Some members represent approximately 500,000 people, while others represent almost 1 million. That is an unbalanced system.

The house was originally apportioned in this way. Then it was changed to round the number of members up or down. There were multiple changes to the way things were calculated until we get the system we have now.

Recent proposals in congress to increase the number of representatives (and give DC a full representative) involved negotiations and horse trading numbers to ensure party balance. The Representatives are not there to ensure party balance. They are there to represent the people. Let’s open the flood gates and make the representatives earn their position on their ideas not their party or the interests of party balance.

2) The districts for the representatives of the states, for both federal and state congressional districts, shall be created by utilizing the most appropriate technology for automatically apportioning geographic regions to equally distribute the population of the state.

No more gerrymandering. No more districts that look like 2 dinosaurs engaged in intercourse. No more disproportionate representation. No more “safe seats”.

We have the means to draw districts automatically, we just don’t use them because the parties want to be able to rig elections. This practice has led to the extreme partisanship and total dysfunction see in congress today. By eliminating the practice, politicians and parties can no longer pick who they represent. This forces the parties and politicians to represent all of the people. They have to win their elections on ideas, which means they have to appeal to the widest audience. Thus moving away from the extremes and towards the center.

This also opens the door for 3rd parties and independents. The 2 parties have less ability to say that a vote for a 3rd party takes away the chances for the 2 parties. New ideas! The anathema of old institutions.

The sub-clauses are there to prevent any possibility of manipulation.

2a)The only factors which may be considered in calculating regions are geopolitical boundaries, public roadways, naturally forming breaks such as rivers, and population count with no demographic modifiers.

One of the great things about computers is that they only know what you tell them. If you don’t give them information, they cannot act on it. Whereas a human can and will make inferences even without explicit information. By not allowing demographic information (race, sex, religion, party affiliation, etc), the automated process cannot be told to account for it. It doesn’t care if it divides a rich neighborhood in half and combines it with a poor neighborhood. It won’t try to group everyone of a specific race or ideology together. It is blind. Therefore, it is fair. Give us candidates who represent everyone.

2b) Should a starting point be required for the process, the state capital building shall be that starting point.

Algorithms generally require a starting point. If you change the starting point, you get a different result. This prevents things from being run 1000 times to give the “best result” for one group or another.

2c) Should additional points be needed, a non-political group of geographic experts shall be convened once to determine the most appropriate, non-moving, geographic points to create the most efficient calculations.

If there is additional information needed, have non-partisan experts fill in the blanks in a way that cannot be manipulated in the future.

2d) Should this amendment be ratified more than 2 years before the next census, automated redistricting shall happen once before the next election and once after each census thereafter.

The generic addendum of automatically redistrict immediately if there is an election prior to the next census.

3) The District of Columbia shall have exactly one Representative in the House of Representatives who shall have all rights and responsibilities as the Representatives of the individual states.

This is the right thing to do. We all know it. Taxation without representation, one of the major reasons we fought the revolutionary war. More than 200 years later we are still continuing the practice. It is simply wrong. Let’s fix it.

Section 3: Voting rights.

1) No citizen, who shall be at least eighteen years of age by the end of the calendar year of the election, and who is not incarcerated at the time of the election, shall be denied the right to vote for any reason.

No more disenfranchisement. No more voter purges. No more changing the rules every year. Everyone gets to vote. Voting is a guaranteed right and it is time to permanently end all of the attempts to limit or prevent various groups from voting.

Voting happens on an arbitrary day in November. People should not be prevented from voting because their birthday happened to be on a Wednesday of a particular year instead of Tuesday. While the voting day may be arbitrary, this fixes the age to be 18 within the same year. As a general rule, we do not consider someone who was born in May to be significantly older, more mature, or more capable than someone born in June. The same general principles should apply to voting. It is based on the whole year, not the specific day.

One of the largest, if not the largest, group of disenfranchised people are convicts. When someone is incarcerated, they have been removed from society. When they are released, they have been deemed acceptable to return to society. As such, they should be allowed to fully participate in the society that they return to. It is their government also. They deserve to have as much say in the government and laws that affect them as the rest of us. Their debt has been paid.

1a) No state may require any greater form of identification to vote than is required for the government service which requires the least form of identification.

If a lesser form of identification is acceptable for some government service, then it should be acceptable for exercising your constitutional rights. States should not be able to arbitrarily create barriers to voting. Voting is a right, not a privilege.

1b) All forms of government issued identification must be accepted as valid identification to vote.

The government gave you the ID, it cannot then reject that ID. Restricting what type of ID is considered acceptable is a favorite tactic of voter suppression. If we take away the ability to suppress voters, then elected officials become answerable to all citizens.

Section 4: General elections

1) Elections shall be held on the first consecutive Saturday and Sunday in the month of November.

Having elections on a Tuesday is nothing more than voter suppression of the working class. By making it inconvenient to vote, it makes the more apathetic of the population less likely to vote. That means that the more extreme views are overly represented. This is shown in the pathetically low voter turn out, particularly in non-Presidential election years. Let’s make it as convenient as possible to vote and get more people represented.

1a) Polling places shall be open no less than 12 hours on each day.

This is just to ensure that politicians and parties don’t get any bright ideas about restricting hours to suppress the vote.

1b) Every citizen who arrives at the place of polling prior to the time of closing shall be allowed to cast a vote.

While the next clause attempts to curb the practices that create long lines, everyone who shows up to vote on time should be allowed to.

1c) Each state shall be required to ensure that each place of polling has equal per capita voting resources and facilities access.

No more providing 10 voting machines and 50 parking places to a rich district with 1000 voters and 10 voting machines and 20 parking spaces to a poor district with 10,000 voters. No more creating artificially long lines in order to suppress voters. States will be required to give each polling place proportionally equal resources.

2) Voters shall be allowed to, but not required to, vote for more than one candidate for each position, in order of preference.
2a) Each candidate may only be voted for once.
2b) The winner shall be determined when one candidate has at least 50% + 1 votes or all votes have been counted and the candidate with the highest total shall be the winner.
2c) Votes shall be counted one order of preference at a time (e.g. all first choice votes) until a winner is determined. Each consecutive order or preference shall only be counted if a winner has not been determined by the previous totals. Votes at each order or preference shall count as one divided by the level of the vote (e.g. 2nd place votes count as ½).

This clause provides a method for immediate run-off elections. This opens the door for more 3rd parties and independents to actually run for office and prevents someone from winning when they receive less than 50% of the vote when more than 2 candidates are involved. In a multi-way split, the consensus candidate prevails instead of rule by a minority.

With the possibility of a 3 (or 4 or 6) way split, candidates and parties have to fear that a 3rd party candidate will get enough first choice votes and a majority of second choice votes and win. This will result in stronger candidates, who stand for something, running instead of candidates who are good enough. No more “lesser of two evils” candidates. No more campaigning about how bad the other person is. Candidates will have to stand on their own strengths so that if they are not the first choice for the majority, then they will be considered the best second choice instead of settling for being “not the other person”.

A quick explanation of the why’s

Why am I doing this? Is it just because of the shutdown?

No. This is something I have wanted to do and thought needed to be done for many years. The shutdown and dysfunction we see in the system was a good kick in the ass to get me motivated to take action.

I believe that the biggest problem we have in the United States is the 2 party system. I would like to see 4 or 5 parties well represented in congress. I would like to see the Tea Party break off into its own party and be represented. Maybe even a faction of the Democrats break off on their own. Everyone in this country deserves to be represented, even those we don’t agree with. Let’s have more voices and more ideas instead of sticking to 2 platforms who only agree that if one is for it, the other must be against it. I want to open the flood gates and see what happens.

Why MoveOn.org? It is a liberal group.

I had hoped to do this on the White House petition site, but they restrict petitions to 800 characters. I find that ridiculous as it is not enough to discuss serious matters. After learning that, I think the site is a token gesture to make people feel good while not allowing enough space to put up a petition that has more than vague concepts. Thus allowing the administration to provide a response without needing to actually do anything.

After that, I went looking for a site to start the petition on. MoveOn.org has the infrastructure in place to deliver the petitions once they have been signed. This petition is not meant to be liberal or conservative, Republican or Democrat. It is purely about taking power away from the parties and politicians and giving it to the people. Thus allowing the people to have more control over our government.

Do I think it has a chance of passing congress?

Probably not. This amendment would change the entire political landscape. Those in power will not give up that power without a fight. It will break the 2 party dynamic. That is something neither party wants. However, a petition with millions of signatures cannot just be ignored. The President and Congress would have to at least address it. That in turn would bring more attention to the problems which might bring more pressure to address it. The only chance this has is through overwhelming public demand for action. Whether liberal or conservative, the one thing we all agree on is the system is totally broken now. This is not meant to favor any group. It is meant to end the political games by both sides and give the people the power to change the system from the ground up. Let every voice be represented and every voice be heard.

Where to sign the petition?

HERE ( http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/amend-the-constitution-8 )