Article V is the only part of the US Constitution that tells how we can change the Constitution. The states, not Congress, propose amendments at an Article V Convention. An Article V Symposium was held at Cooley Law School on September 17, 2010 in Lansing, Michigan. Bill Walker, cofounder of Friends of the Article V Convention, shared how he filed two federal lawsuits stating that Congress was obligated to call an Article V Convention. The latter lawsuit (Walker v. the Members of Congress in 2004) was appealed to the Supreme Court and the Supreme Court declared, as it had in three other separate decisions, that Congress must call for an Article V Convention. But Congress has simply refused in violation of the US Constitution.
To listen to Bill Walker’s speech and to the other scholars at the symposium, who all argue that we should want, not fear, an Article V Convention, click on this link. In all fairness, I will provide a link to the best arguments of those who fear an Article V Convention, but I do not share their beliefs.
Bill Walker has collected photographed copies of 750 applications for an Article V Convention that have been submitted to Congress from 49 states. The Constitution mandates that an amendment proposing national convention (consisting of one delegate from each state) be called when 2/3 of the state legislatures (or 34 state legislatures) propose it. As already mentioned, the Supreme Court has declared over the years in four separate decisions (without dissent) that Congress must call an Article V Convention, and yet 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 the congressional records and has thus deliberately and willfully vetoed the Constitution. Therefore, every member of Congress should now be held accountable for this violation. At the symposium, Bill Walker addressed four lies that are often used to support Congress in its vetoing of the Constitution.
First, is the lie that an Article V Convention would be a runaway convention like the first Constitutional Convention held in 1787. But the convention delegates in 1787 did what they were authorized to do by Congress under the Articles of Confederation. Then their new plan of government had to be ratified by ¾ of the 13 states. It was not a runaway convention. Remember ¾ of the states must ratify any amendment proposals under our current Constitution. Would ¾ of the states, or 34 states, ratify something ridiculous? No.
Second, is the lie of the Chief Justice Burger letter, often used by the John Birch Society; the letter warns of the dangers of this type of convention. Mr. Walker argues that the letter is bogus because Justice Burger is on record supporting such a convention.
Third, is the lie of the balanced budget amendment. It concerns the actual number of applications submitted by the States. The John Birch Society only discusses a single amendment issue (the balanced budget amendment) saying that 32 states have applied for this amendment, thus implying that these are the only applications there are. In this way, Bill Walker argues, the John Birch Society avoids mentioning all the other 718 applications.
Walker said that if you go to his website and take a look at the applications, you will find nearly 200 applications in the section called “Balanced Budget,” and the public record shows that 36 states have applied for a balanced budget, not 32. If having proposals on a singular subject were the basis for calling an Article V Convention, then on this issue alone there must be a Convention.
Fourth, is the lie that an Article V Convention is a Constitutional Convention, which it is not. A Constitutional Convention involves creating an entirely new constitution and government. If you look at Article V (it is printed here a few paragraphs down) of the US Constitution, it only discusses who (Congress or the States) can propose amendments, and how at least 3/4 of the state legislatures or state conventions, either one, must then ratify the Amendments. Bill Walker has provided proof that the public record, history, and the Constitution itself prove that Article V of the US Constitution is only about proposing and ratifying amendments, just that, and nothing more.
Since Congress can choose that proposed amendments be ratified by state conventions instead of state legislatures, some people wrongly fear that Congress, not the states themselves, would choose who actually attends the 50 state ratifying conventions. But the people of the 50 states would rise in protest if Congress tried to do that.
The research of Walker’s two mandatory lawsuits also disproves legal experts who say that a Convention cannot be held because there are no laws addressing the exigencies that would occur when a national Amendment Convention is requested by the state legislatures. After five years of research, Walker said he found 208 Supreme Court decisions affecting and dealing with the legal aspects of an Article V Convention.
In previous articles posted at Disinformation, I argued for the more radical Constitutional Convention (not an Article V Convention). Thomas Jefferson in his beginning words of the Declaration of Independence said we have a right to abolish our government, which means we can totally rewrite the Constitution. In other writings, Jefferson actually recommended a new constitution for every new generation, arguing that successive generations should not be bound by the mindsets of previous generations. To me, that sounds like wise advice.
The wording of Article V is tortuous to read and confusing in general. As you may know, 27 amendments have been added to our Constitution, but in every case, Congress introduced and approved the proposed amendments, but then afterward, 3/4 of the state legislatures, at their separate locations, had to ratify Congress’s proposed amendments. But the other method, which has never been tried, involves delegates from all the 50 states meeting together at a national convention to create proposals that later must be ratified by either 3/4 of the state legislatures, or 3/4 of the state conventions, whichever method of ratification Congress chooses. Article V is printed in the paragraph below.
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.
In a previous essay, I also proposed a Twenty-Eighth Amendment (its latest revision is included at the end of this essay) that would revise Article V. My main purpose is to show how a Constitutional Convention (to create an entirely new constitution and government) can be done in a fair, safe, and orderly way. Regarding any amendment proposals (that would be added to the current Constitution), I also propose that 2/3, not ¾, of the state legislatures (state conventions are no longer allowed) are needed to ratify any amendment proposals of Congress or the states.
The percentage required to ratify proposed amendments is reduced because political apathy sets in if we make it too hard to change our government. Many individuals fear that Congress might choose state conventions to ratify amendments (which it has never done before). Not only that, they fear that Congress might even select who attends the conventions. Therefore, I propose that state legislatures only (not state conventions) can ratify amendments proposed by Congress or the states.
We the people are entitled to a Constitutional Convention when we desire it even though our current Constitution does not specifically address how it should be done. In my previous efforts of proposing a Constitutional Convention to totally rewrite the Constitution, I discovered that the far right, the far left, many in between, and various types of anarchists were very fearful of a Constitutional Convention for different reasons. Libertarians fear socialists, and vice versa. Some Americans believe our government is a Constitutional Republic (with enumerated individual rights that a mob democracy cannot take away). Others believe we need a Bill of Rights, but, at local levels, we should engage in more participatory, face-to-face decision making—ideally consensus democracy, not just majority rule.
The second group believes our Constitution is a “living document” that changes with the times. The first group wants to follow the Constitution as it was originally intended by our founding fathers. Originally, only white men who owned property could vote. With the 17 amendments added to the Bill of Rights (which were the first 10 amendments), our government has changed over its 221-year history, since the Constitution was written during the summer of 1787 and implemented in 1789 when George Washington became our first president.
I have also written a new constitution called the Third Constitution of the United States (remember the Articles of Confederation was the first government and constitution that we had). My proposed constitution would implement a downsized federal government that gives more power and self-determination to states, counties, townships, and precincts, building government from the bottom-up, which has never been tried before, not from the top-down, the usual way.
In my Third Constitution of the United States, free market capitalists in some counties could trade freely with democratic socialists in other counties. And if many Mormons, Muslims, secular humanists, and Hindus decide to congregate in particular precincts (there are about 600 precincts in Indianapolis), then the public schools in those precincts would reflect the thinking of the residents who live there. There would be neighborhood control of neighborhood schools.
I support, encourage, and want to join the individuals at FOAVC.org, TenAmendments.org, and article-V-convention.com who are working to empower the people with an Article V Convention. It is an important first step. Congress has ignored the will of the people, so the people need to urge their state and federal lawmakers to implement an Article V Convention immediately. If out of fear we discourage Congress from calling an Article V Convention, then Congress, will its 9% approval rating, will carry on as before.
Under our current Constitution, I repeat, there is no need to be apprehensive about an Article V Convention. If Congress refuses a balanced budget amendment, for example, then the people can take matters into their own hands. I personally like the idea of requiring that the bills introduced by Congress should deal with single issues; that Congress (not lobbyists) should write the bills; and that members of Congress must read each bill in its entirety.
Many liberals (in some ways that is what I am) may not like the fact that decentralists have proposed amendments that empower state legislatures to veto legislation passed by the federal Congress. If that is the case, then liberals (who want a strong federal government) should work to get their own proposed amendments addressed at an Article V Convention.
Though I personally like Dr. Ron Paul’s ideas about auditing the Federal Reserve, legalizing marijuana/hemp, and not intervening in the affairs of foreign countries — I noticed recently on television that he has supported Obama’s recent proposal to cut taxes for the super wealthy. Is it right that 1% of Americans own 35% of the nation’s net worth, and that the bottom 80% of Americans own 15% of the nation’s net worth? (Examine the research of G. William Domhoff, updated December, 2010, at this link.)
America represents 5% of the world’s population and owns 25% of the world’s wealth. (see politicalleft.blog)
I am deeply troubled that half of the world, over three billion people, lives on less than $2.50 a day, and at least 80% of humanity lives on less than $10 a day. (see globalissues.org)
When I was a libertarian, I supported the flat tax rate, and I was very critical of big government. And I am still irritated that our national debt is 13 trillion dollars. But I have learned since my retirement that there is very little “liberty” for the hard-working people who have no choice but to compete for minimum wage jobs that provide no health benefits in private companies that have dictatorial and autocratic chains of command. I now support workplace democracy in companies that have more than 6 employees. Corporations should be heavily taxed when they move their operations overseas where they get away with paying workers 17 cents an hour. Moreover, I am sympathetic with philosophical anarchists who are against all forms of hierarchy, whether it is found in government or the workplace.
Now I support a steep progressive income tax up to 90%, and I support the Single Payer Health Plan, which essentially would provide Medicare to all Americans. As the rich keep getting richer, and the poor, poorer — how does that solve the world’s problems? Many social problems stem from the vast disparity between the rich and the poor. But I am just one voice. You, the reader, are a voice too.
According to the CIA-World Factbook, in 2009 the global per capita income in US dollars was $10,400, down 2% from the previous year. That figure is the total GNP of all the countries of the world divided by the world’s population. Here is the link.
I personally would accept a $10, 400 annual income if it meant creating true peace and harmony in the world. In regards to helping the disadvantaged and exploited peoples of the world, I share the sentiment that says, “Instead of giving a person a fish, it is better to teach that person how to fish.“
Wealthy individuals and powerful corporations finance both the Republicans and the Democrats, which is why there is very little difference between the Bush and Obama administrations. Our elections are shams, which is why many people do not even bother to vote. All average Americans should be filled with rapture about an Article V (Amendment) Convention. It levels the playing field and gives power to the people, not to elitists who have hijacked our government.
If the Twenty-Eighth Amendment that I have proposed was ratified, there would be no need to fret about a Constitutional Convention. My guess is that a lot of the activists who support an Amendment Convention are petrified about having a Constitutional Convention as everyone else seems to be. So, for right now, I am willing to join the Amendment Convention advocates.
With an Article V (Amendment) Convention, and even more so with a Constitutional Convention, more Americans would walk away from TV sports and shopping malls and start participating in the great philosophical, political, and economic debates of our day. Then our nation could truly be a light unto the world. Below is the latest edition of my amendment proposal that could be added to our current US Constitution.
The Twenty-Eighth Amendment
The United States government can be modified through amendments added to its current Constitution, or the federal government can be changed completely as the result of a Constitutional Convention.
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 their proposed amendment with a 2/3 majority. Then 2/3 of the state legislatures have a year to ratify the amendment recommended by Congress. Ratifying with a 2/3 majority, instead of the ¾ majority that was required in the past, makes it easier to change the government. Citizens will feel helpless and hopeless, or politically alienated, if it is too difficult to change their government.
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 reason. Once a state makes a request for a convention, it cannot be rescinded. Each state legislature shall choose one person to attend the national Amendment Convention. Then the 50 state legislatures, at their separate locations, will have a year to ratify any proposed amendments made by the national Amendment Convention. A new amendment will not be added to the current Constitution unless 2/3 of the state legislatures ratify it.
The Constitution is the supreme law of the land. As mentioned in the first paragraph of this Amendment, a radically new constitution and government can be formed through a Constitutional Convention. It can be achieved in a fair, safe, and orderly way. The American people have a right to make a new government based upon a 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 2/3 of the American voters request a constitutional convention at that time, then the Constitutional Convention will start meeting one year later. Each state will thus have less than a year to pick one delegate to attend the Constitutional Convention.
Each state shall send one delegate to participate in the Constitutional Convention based on the Instant Runoff Voting method. Voters of each state will rank 7 candidates in the order of their preferences. The seven most numerous political parties of a state will offer the voters of that state a proposed constitution and a potential constitutional delegate, who might be the one selected by the state to represent it, at the Constitutional Convention. For example, here is how one voter from Indiana might rank her votes, based on the seven most numerous political parties in Indiana:
1. Republican Party 2. Constitution Party 3. Libertarian Party 4. Democratic Party 5, Green Party 6. Socialist Party 7. Communist Party.
If no candidate in Indiana gets a 51% majority, then before the second round of voting begins, the candidate who had the least amount of votes in Indiana would be dropped from the list of choices (making the total now 6). If after the second round of voting, still no candidate has a 51% majority, then the candidate who had the least amount of votes would be dropped (making the list of choices now 5). If after the third round of voting, the Republican Party (which may have proposed to not change the current Constitution) received at least 51% of the votes, then its candidate would be the delegate to represent Indiana at the national Constitutional Convention.
The 50 Constitutional Convention delegates will first meet the first Tuesday of November, one year after the previous presidential election date. The Colorado State Legislature (chosen because of its somewhat geographically central location) will choose beforehand a meeting place and the initial chairperson (who will not have voting privileges) of the Constitutional Convention. The delegates may later choose one of the attending delegates, who would have voting privileges, to be the chairperson of the Convention. Formal discussions and debates of the Convention will use parliamentary procedure. The 50 state legislatures will assist with the costs of the Convention, which should be kept at a minimum. If the Colorado State Legislature does not want its designated responsibility, then it is imperative that it ask another state legislature to do the job.
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. Two years after the previous presidential election, the American people will vote on the latest, proposed constitution. Without a 51% majority vote of approval by the American people, the proposed constitution will be null and void, and the current Constitution will continue as before. In summary, there will be one year to pick delegates and another year for the actual constitutional convention.
The much greater fairness that Instant Run-Off Voting provides in the selection of Constitutional Convention delegates is why only a 51% majority is needed to ratify the newly proposed 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.
Readers may send this essay to family members and friends, to lawmakers, and to other websites. Disinformation is the only website I have found that freely allows me to share my ideas for which I am very grateful.
Roger Copple retired at age 60, in May 2010, from teaching third grade in a public school in Indianapolis. He has been trying to integrate the Libertarian, Green, Socialist, and Anarchist political theories. His political essays can be found at www.NowSaveTheWorld.com. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.