Constitution Review part 4

In this, our last review of the U.S. Constitution, we will address a couple more items: Amendmends 11-27 and a hot button issue, The Electoral College. If you care for more about our Constitution, please see my previous posts: Constitution Day, Constitution Review parts 1,2 and 3.

Remember, the first 10 amendments are called The Bill of Rights and were ratified as a package deal, as prescribed for amendments in Article V of the Constitution. Those first 10 were ratified in 1791. Each of the remaining 17 amendments have been added to the document from 1795 to present day.

Since the ratification of The Bill of RIghts, some 11,000 other amendments have been proposed through the years. Of the 27 amendments that are part of our Constituion, 25 of them are currently active. The 18th – having to do with prohibition and the 21st – dealing with it’s repeal are inactive.

Lastly, before we dive into those last amendments, let’s recall that as prescribed by the Constitution, it can only be changed (amended) in the following, complicated ways. Complicated because the Framers did not want this document to change with the shifting winds of society or the latest fads of the people. There are four ways prescribed but one of these two procedures were used for every amendment since the Bill of RIghts.

  • A proposal by a two-thirds majority in both houses of Congress or
  • Ratification by three-fourths of the state legislatures.

So, let’s review Amendments 11-27, shall we?

Amendment XI – 1795 – bans lawsuits brought by citizens of one state against another state. This was introduced to overrule a Supreme Court decision in a Georgia case.

Amendment XII – 1804 – electing the President and Vice President, electors, tallying votes and certifying votes. Again, this one was introduced to deal with an issue in the previous election.

Amendment XIII – 1865 – abolished slavery. Proposed during the raging Civil War, it became the law of the land!

Amendment XIV – 1868 – Rights of citizenship, the states obligations and due process. Suffice it to say, this, one of the meatiest amendments, is also one of the most controversial. Included in this amendment are these issues – equal protection laws, state or federal citizenship, age discrimination, capital punishment, segregation, busing, affirmative action, and gerrymandering. The four sections in this amendment have been torn apart, redefined, scrutinized, and agrued over for over 150 years.

Amendment XV – 1870 – Bans racial discrimination in voting.

Negros gain the vote

Amendment XVI – 1913 – Congress is granted power to collect income tax

Amendment XVII – 1913 – Senators seats and their vacancies

Amendment XVIII – 1919 – Prohibition of intoxicating liquors

Prohibition days

Amendment XIX – 1920 – Women’s right to vote

Women gain the vote

Amendment XX – 1933 – New inaguration date for President and terms date for Congress

Amendment XXI – 1933 – Repeal of Prohibition – Amendment 18

Amendment XXII – 1951 – Limits President to 2 terms

Amendment XXIII – 1961 – The Disctict of Columbia, (Washington D.C.) is granted voting rights

Amendment XXIV – 1964 – Poll taxes are banned

Amendment XXV – 1967 – Vice President takes over for President in the event of death, removal, resignation or incapacity

Amendment XXVI – 1971 – Voting age is reduced to 18

Amendment XXVII – 1992 – Pay increases for Congress shall take effect after elections

It’s been thirty years since any new amendments have been ratified. Are we due? What issues do you think should be addressed by amendment to the standing rule of law for our federal government?

There are really too many controversial issues attached to portions of our governing document for me to address. But I have one that I chose to address. That is the issue of the Electoral College.

I know of many who still do not even understand what the electoral college is much less it’s purpose and why the framers included such a convention into our election process. Allow me, if you will to attempt explanation.

Each state has a specific number of electors

Understanding the Electoral College

  • The Framers took 60 ballots to settle the election process involving electors
  • The President and Vice President shall be chosen by the casting of ballots of the electors, not upon popular vote
  • The term electoral college is NOT in the constitution
  • “electors” are though, and refered to in Article II and in the 12th Amendment
  • these electors are appointed in each state according to the number of representatives and senators. example: CA 55 representatives and 2 senators = 57 electors
  • Electors cast their vote based upon the popular vote of their respective state. So, if the majority of CA voters voted for candidate A, that one would receive all 55 electoral votes for CA
  • This is based on the “winner take all system” which is used in all but 2 states.
  • Nebraska and Maine do not use this “winner take all” system
  • This is why is it possible for a candidate to have a lead in popular votes but not in electors (and vice versa)
  • 270 electoral votes are needed for a candidate to be elected President of the US. (regardless of if they received the most votes in the popular vote)
  • The Framers fought to make sure that each state had equal say in the election of the nation’s president. Not just the bigger, more populated states.

On a personal note here – Many are inclined to do away with The Electoral College believing that the popular vote should decide the presidental winner. They put forth the problem as The Electoral College itself. I DISAGREE. The problem is NOT with the electors and that process, it is with the winner take all distrubution of votes by the states.

Again, in the winner take all system, it does not matter whether the candidate wins by few or many votes. If he/she wins, then they are allotted ALL of the electors. THAT IS THE PROBLEM in my view.

I believe Nebraska and Maine, have it closer to right by allowing votes within each district to be tallied and the state’s electors split if needed, thereby dividing their electors between candidates based on the number of popular votes.

It’s no wonder that The Framers took so many ballots to try and get this right.

The bottom line to remember, when you vote (and I sure hope that you do), your vote is telling your state’s electors who to vote for. If you live in a winner take all state, then all of your electors will go to the candidate with the most popular votes.

If you don’t like the winner take all system, rally, write, and speak up in your state to change it.

I appreciate your support for these blogs and trust that your vote will be well informed and your patriotism renewed.

God bless America, the land that I love.


2 thoughts on “Constitution Review part 4

  1. As an outsider, meaning non-American, it is often easier to see contradictory positions within the same framewor that others close to the framework do not always see.

  2. Regarding Amendment XXII, if the most important office in the land is restricted to two terms, why are not all offices restricted to two terms.
    To me, the basis for this amendment is to prevent any particular person from becoming too powerful, no matter how good or bad a leader they may be.
    And, if that is the case, why are especially Senators allowed to hold office for so many years they become so powerful that they control the party line of the Senate, no matter how good or bad they can be. All offices of the government should be treated equally.
    There are problems with both positions, term limits or unlimited terms, but in the end I would think constant turnover is a more democratic solution.

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