By Roger Copple
07 March, 2012
Our current constitution, which was written during the summer of 1787, and implemented in 1789, needs, at the very least, to be updated and written in a simple and clear way, so that citizens can be empowered. Much of our current constitution deals with matters that are no longer relevant, such as the embarrassing references to any slave as being counted as 3/5 of a person. Before I propose my Twenty-Eighth Amendment, which simplifies and revises Article V of our current Constitution, I will display Article V immediately below, so that you can be reminded of its tortuous, vague, and confusing words.
Article V of the US Constitution
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.
[End of Article V in our current Constitution]
What the latter part of Article V specifically states is that no amendment could be made before 1808 that prohibits the importation of slaves. Do we want that kind of statement to remain in our current, supreme civil document?
This Twenty-Eighth Amendment proposal includes some of the features that are found in Article V in our current Constitution, but it also simplifies, clarifies, and changes Article V as well. Article V is the only part of our current Constitution that tells how we can add amendments to the Constitution. Unfortunately, it does not address how we can abolish our government as Thomas Jefferson said we have a right to do in the Declaration of Independence. Jefferson expressed that every new generation should have a new constitution.
My amendment proposal is printed below, followed by a second constitutional amendment proposal by some members of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Others such as the Friends of the Article V Convention attest that Congress is obligated right now by order of the Supreme Court to allow the 50 state legislatures to have a national Amendment Convention in order to vote on various amendments that have already been proposed. The balanced budget amendment is one such proposal.
A Proposal for a Twenty-Eighth Amendment (Latest Revision, 3-5-12 )
Revision of ARTICLE V: How to Change or Abolish the U.S. Constitution
The United States government can be modified through amendments added to its current Constitution. It can also be changed when Congress passes new federal laws. But to change the federal government completely, there has to be a Constitutional Convention to rewrite a totally new constitution.
To change the federal government by merely adding amendments to the current constitution, there are two ways that this can be done:
In the first way, both Houses of the United States Congress must pass the proposed amendment with a 3/4 majority. This is higher than the 2/3 majority required by both Houses before. However, Congress will no longer need ¾ of the state legislatures to approve. This method bypasses the state legislatures altogether.
The second way to add amendments to the current Constitution is for 2/3 of the state legislatures to call for a national Amendment Convention for any reasons. Once a state makes a request for a convention, that request cannot be rescinded. Each state legislature shall choose one person to attend the national Amendment Convention that should not last longer than three months.
State delegates at the first Amendment Convention will discuss, rewrite, and vote on over 700 applications (many cover the same subject) made by more than ¾ of the state legislatures over the years since 1789. The state delegates cannot create new amendments. They must deal with the specific subjects of the amendments that have already been submitted.
Congress though mandated several times by the Supreme Court has ignored the requests of state legislatures for an Amendment Convention. Therefore, the first Amendment Convention will be held within 3 months after this Twenty-Eighth Amendment Proposal is approved.
If the delegates at the Amendment Convention approve of any amendment proposals with at least a 51% majority, after working for a maximum of 3 months, then those amendment proposals will be submitted to the state legislatures. A new amendment will be added to the current Constitution whenever 2/3 of the state legislatures ratify it.
If a state legislature casts it vote early on an amendment proposal already approved by the delegates at the Amendment Convention, it may change its mind if the 2/3 majority has not yet been reached. If the state legislatures have not passed a proposed amendment within a year, it will become null and void. This second method for adding new amendments to the current Constitution bypasses the US Congress altogether.
The Constitution is the supreme law of the land. As mentioned in the first paragraph of this Twenty-Eighth Amendment, a radically new constitution and government can be formed, not through an Amendment Convention, but through a Constitutional Convention. Neither an Amendment Convention nor a Constitutional Convention has ever been tried in the history of our current Constitution. But both can now be achieved in a fair, orderly, and nonviolent way as a result of this Twenty-Eighth Amendment.
The American people have a right to amend the Constitution without extreme difficulty, and they have a right to make a new government based upon an entirely new constitution. Therefore, the decision to create a new supreme document will be considered by the American people at every presidential election.
If at least 51% of the American voters request a Constitutional Convention at the time a new president is elected, then every citizen eligible to vote for a U.S. president shall register with a national political party within 9 months afterwards (The website www.politics1.com has a comprehensive Directory of U.S. Political Parties). The Constitutional Convention will start meeting 3 months later or one year after the previous presidential election. The Constitutional Convention delegates will meet at the Capitol Building in Washington D.C. There will be 50 delegates chosen by the system of Proportional Representation.
For educational purposes, let us pretend that the national Republican Party won 10 delegate seats at the Constitutional Convention, the Democratic Party-10, the Libertarian Party-9, the Green Party-8, the Constitution Party-7, the Socialist Party-3, the Communist Party-2, and an Anarchist group-1 (Anarchists generally believe that government, in any form, is detrimental to society.)
The 50 Constitutional Convention delegates will meet the first Tuesday of November one year after the previous presidential election. The delegates at the Constitutional Convention will choose within 30 days one of their own attending delegates to be the chairperson, based on a system of Instant Run-off voting.
To pick a Constitutional Convention chairperson, each delegate will rank 7 candidates in order of preference. If no chairperson candidate gets a 51% majority, then the 7 th of the top 7 candidates is dropped from the voting list before the 2 nd round of voting is held among the top 6 candidates. If after the 2 nd round of voting, there is still no chairperson candidate with a 51% majority, then a 3 rd round of voting among the top 5 candidates will take place. This manner of voting will continue even if it is narrowed down to a choice between two or three chairperson candidates. The chairperson will be responsible for facilitating the proceedings of the Constitutional Convention.
Formal discussions and debates of the Convention will use parliamentary procedure. The Convention delegates will work on several revisions, if necessary, of the newly proposed Constitution, in the constant effort to get 51% of the American people to accept it, as expressed in public opinion surveys. In fact, since the delegates have a maximum of one year, they could work longer to get a higher percentage of approval than 51%, after hearing arguments from those who disapprove of the new document. Two years after the previous presidential election, the American people will vote on the latest, proposed constitution approved by at least 51% of the Constitutional Convention delegates.
Without a 51% majority vote of approval by the American people as well, as expressed through voting, the proposed constitution will be null and void, and the current Constitution will continue as before. If the proposed Constitution is ratified by the American people, it will not be implemented until two years later, unless 51% of the state legislatures want to implement it sooner.
In summary, once the American voters decide they want a Constitutional Convention, they will have one year to pick national political party delegates, and it will take another year for the actual Constitutional Convention. Then two years later the Constitution will be implemented at the beginning of the next presidential term of office. This allows two years to prepare the infrastructure of the new government based on the new Constitution. The spoken and written words of the delegates must be publicized, and citizens will be allowed to voice their own opinions in the process.
The US Congress, the President, and the US Supreme Court will not have the right to control an Amendment Convention or a Constitutional Convention. They can, however, express their opinions and recommendations in the process. [End of amendment proposal]
Friends of the Article V Convention ( www.FOAVC.org ) have documented that the U.S. Congress is obligated right now to call an Article V (Amendment) Convention so that representatives of the 50 state legislatures can vote only to ratify various constitutional amendments that have already been proposed. Members of this group argue that Article V of our current Constitution addresses how to have an Amendment Convention but not a Constitutional Convention. Some of them may not fully endorse my Twenty-Eighth Amendment proposal. But they make a very strong case that we should be having an Amendment Convention right now.
Bill Walker at www.FOAVC.org has collected photographed copies of 750 applications for an Article V Convention that have been submitted to Congress from 49 states. The current Constitution mandates that an amendment-proposing national convention (consisting of one delegate from each state) be called when 2/3 of the state legislatures (i.e., 34 states) propose it. The Supreme Court has declared over the years in 5 separate decisions (without dissent) that Congress must call an Article V Convention. But Congress has never obeyed the Constitution regarding an Article V Convention. Nor has Congress compiled the applications into a single public record.
Aided by opponents of an Article V Convention and a complacent Judiciary, Congress has kept the applications buried in Congressional records and has thus deliberately and willfully vetoed the Constitution. Every member of Congress should now be held accountable for this violation. In an earlier essay posted at the website Disinformation
( www.disinfo.com/2010/congress-refuses-an-article-V-Convention ), I elaborate on this issue. The website www.FOAVC.org is where I got information about an Article V Convention.
Some members of the Occupy Wall Street , New York , are offering a Restore Democracy Plan which focuses on just one issue that could get universal support from all Americans (even those in the Tea Party) by pushing an amendment proposal that gets big money out of politics. Organizations such as corporations and unions should not be considered people, and money shall not be considered speech. See the article by Rick Theis at www.EcoHearth.com/eco-op-ed/1716-occupy-wall-street-restore-democracy-plan.html
But one person made a comment about Rick Theis' article about the Restore Democracy Plan strategy: “Asking Congress to amend asks them to undo what they put the Supremes up to [in] the Citizens United decision. They have wanted the $ for years. Thinking they are going to give it up short of an Article V Convention is naïve.”
But then Rick Theis responded, “Chris, thanks for your comment, but it seems you skimmed rather than read this op-ed piece. It sets forth a clear plan for getting Congress to agree to the amendment using the same tactics Prohibition Amendment supporters used…and we have public support for overturning corporate personhood at far greater levels (80% of the Democrats, 81% of Independents, and 76% of Republicans, as the piece states) than Prohibition supporters did. [The] [P]roof that Congress can and will act against its own selfish interests is all of the campaign finance reform that passed (especially as the result of the public pressure after Watergate), reform that would have helped had it not been overturned by the courts. An Article V Convention is a horrible idea for many, many reasons, not the least of which is that it could easily be hijacked by right-wing demagogues.”
In conclusion, I support any amendment that can overturn the Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling. The Citizens United ruling, passed in 2010, allows corporations to unduly influence elections with their exorbitant Super Pac donations. We are now seeing the consequences of the Citizens United ruling with the Republican presidential candidates. We now have a government of, by, and for the corporations.
Furthermore, if Congress has been mandated by the Supreme Court to allow the state legislatures to have a national Amendment Convention, then obeying the law and the Constitution is what Congress should do. We the people should also demand it, even if we fear a right-wing agenda, which may not be justified.
But I believe my Twenty-Eighth Amendment proposal is far more comprehensive in establishing a government that expresses the will of all citizens, from the far right to the far left, with its introduction of Proportional Representation and Instant Run-off voting methods. At my website www.NowSavetheWorld.com (you must type the 3 w's to go there), I propose in my online book Converting Voting Precincts into Tribes my Third Constitution of the United States (It is also posted at the website Disinformation: www.disinfo.com/2012/02/the-third-constitution-of-the-united-states/ ). The Third Constitution of the United States builds government from the bottom-up using consensus decision making at every level of government. It also eliminates the US Senate with its advocacy of Proportional Representation.
A new Constitution of the United States that results from an actual Constitutional Convention may not be very far reaching to my Green Party preferences. But I can keep working through the democratic process to make things better. Others, who have radically different ideas from mine, have a right to do the same.
Roger Copple retired in May 2010 from teaching third grade in a public school in Indianapolis, at the age of 60. Interested in political theory, he has tried to integrate the best of Libertarian, Green, Socialist, and Anarchist viewpoints.