1:07pm

Tue December 20, 2011
It's All Politics

'We The People': NPR Readers Would Ratify Four New Amendments

In "Reconstituting The Constitution: How To Rewrite It," we invited readers to share their own thoughts on how we might change the founding document for 2011. Now the people have spoken.

As of Dec. 20, you've voted to abolish the Electoral College, to limit campaign contributions from corporations, to deny corporations the rights of citizens and to prohibit members of Congress from lobbying once they leave office. In our un-scientific sampling, "ratification" required the support of two-thirds of voters. (You can still add your vote here.)

But Christopher Phillips, who has traveled the country sparking discussions about rewriting the Constitution for his book Constitution Cafe, sees loopholes in many of readers' proposed amendments.

He questions whether abolishing the Electoral College, for instance, would actually enable a more diverse set of presidential candidates to run for office — and succeed.

"Or would they still be stymied by the arcane political primary system devised by the two principal political parties to ensure that their candidates will enjoy a vast material advantage in presidential contests, and that were never anticipated by our original framers?" Phillips asks.

While NPR voters wanted to limit campaign contributions, Phillips suggests that the language of the proposed amendment "still seems to leave open the likely prospect that candidates with deep pockets can continue to fund their own campaigns with tens, if not hundreds, of millions of dollars, still making contests far from fair."

On the amendment expressly stating that corporations are not people, Phillips notes that Congress could "continue to show great favoritism when it comes to enacting laws that tremendously benefit corporations to the detriment of small businesses."

"Congress could continue to use its authority to enact bankruptcy laws that bail out the very corporations that were the principal culprits for our current economic morass," Phillips continues.

He notes that, to remedy this, Constitution Cafe participants developed this amendment: "Congress shall have power to enact legislation that treats impartially all the subjects and objects of bankruptcy throughout the United States, and shall have Power to sustain and perpetuate a creditor-debor system of responsibility and accountaiblity. The states shall charter and regulate banks."

And on the NPR reader amendment prohibiting lobbying, Phillips notes that "this language would still permit an ex-member of Congress and immediate family members easily to work around this to their advantage, since it doesn't restrict ex-members of Congress or their immediate family members from doing direct (or indirect) business with the U.S. government as long as they aren't lobbyists or consultants per se."

Here's how all the proposed amendments fared as of Dec. 20:

1. Elections should be conducted in the same way The X Factor takes votes for contestants: by phone, Twitter or email.

  • 10 percent voted to ratify
  • 90 percent voted against ratification

2. The Electoral College should be abolished and presidents should be elected by popular vote.

  • 75 percent voted to ratify
  • 25 percent voted against ratification

3. Campaign contributions to any candidate for office in the United States government from any entity shall not exceed those limits set for citizens. Corporations, companies, unions, PACs and other organizations shall not be considered citizens.

  • 86 percent voted to ratify
  • 14 percent voted against ratification

4. Limit Supreme Court seats to a single 9-year term with one seat getting turned over every year. Justices would be chosen by lot from a pool of candidates. The amendment would state the requisite qualifications needed (as decided by both houses of Congress). If you meet the criteria, and you want to be a Supreme Court justice, you enter your name in the pool. The most senior judge is chief justice.

  • 39 percent voted to ratify
  • 60 percent voted against ratification

5. The approval of the U.S. citizens would be required on all spending bills. Once per month, all taxpaying U.S. citizens would have the ability to log in to an Internet site and vote on the spending proposals that Congress puts forward.

  • 27 percent voted to ratify
  • 73 percent voted against ratification

6. Ten percent of voters may demand a national referendum on laws passed by Congress. A law is void if voters reject it, otherwise it retains its validity. Congress may repeal the law before the referendum takes place.

  • 44 percent voted to ratify
  • 56 percent voted against ratification

7. The rights enumerated in the Constitution are expressly for the benefit of living human beings. Corporations are expressly denied any claim of protection under the Bill of Rights.

  • 82 percent voted to ratify
  • 17 percent voted against ratification

8. You can't be president if any of the following family members have been president: wife, husband, mother, father, brother, sister, child, or any "in law" version of the preceding.

  • 18 percent voted ratify
  • 82 percent voted against ratification

9. A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, shall be drawn from those citizens who may keep and bear arms only after receiving proper military training.

  • 36 percent voted to ratify
  • 63 percent voted against ratification

10. No member of Congress shall become a lobbyist or a consultant for anyone or any company or business doing business with the United States government once they have completed their service in Congress, nor shall any member of their immediate family.

  • 67 percent voted to ratify
  • 32 percent voted against ratification

11. A direct citizens' vote should be required before entering in any type of war.

    • 34 percent voted ratify
    • 66 percent voted against ratification
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