Sunday, March 03, 2024 |
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Democracy is fragile. It needs to be defended, but defending it by force, is anti-democratic.
Our election system does not work the way we hope for. Politicians like a system that can be manipulated so that even when they have the power to repair it, they don’t. If Patriots gain control of two branches, Congress, both houses, and the Presidency there are things they could make safer for the democratic process. They can fix things that harm democracy in America if they don’t worry about the solutions preventing them from cheating.
Gerrymander is one of the worst abuses. The majority party of the year in many states has the privilege of drawing the electoral districts to benefit themselves. Almost literally the incumbent representatives choosing their voters instead of the voters choosing the representatives. The Constitution gives the states the right to do that, but gives Congress the ability to fix it. “Article I, Section 4 – Elections, Meetings: The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such Regulations.” A responsible coalition can mandate that a system be used that draws district boundaries that considers all residents as equal. Difficult to do by humans, who have trouble leaving their knowledge and biases behind. An electronic system could be made that is unable to receive prejudicial input.
A memo written by legal-council during the Watergate Investigation, unilaterally declared that Department of Justice cannot indict a sitting President. This has never been tested in court, nor debated in Congress. Maybe Congress can create another check on presidential excess, short of impeachment. It is their job to at least talk about it. Article I, Section 8 is less definitive but it appears Congress has some power over this one too. “To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.” A party in power can limit presidential excess.
The Electoral College had two purposes. Before modern communication, voters would pick a local they knew, to represent them rather than choosing among unknowns from other regions. It prevented the larger states from bullying the smaller ones. Remember, at the time the Constitution was proposed there were 13 sovereign states (countries), loosely bound by the Articles of Confederation. A sort of Pre-nup between them. Most power was retained by the individual states. The smaller ones would probably decline to accept the Constitution without that protection. When the author was in high school, we discovered that 13 big states (all in the Northeast) could pick a President without a single vote in any other state. It was true then; it was similarly true in 1790 or 2016. The problem recently is the opposite. Several western states are big. The disparity has gone from the biggest state, Virginia, having eight representatives to the minimum of one, to California with 52. Today we have a tail-wagging-the-dog problem, states with few people have just as many Senators as big states. An amendment to change the Electoral College would need the support of those states likely to lose power and is therefore unlikely. There is an alternative. Some of the largest counties, or cities, say larger than the median state, about 4.5 million, could qualify as new states thus increasing the total number of senators and diminishing the disparity between large state and small by dividing some large states. That is how several inland states were created. Los Angeles County for example could become the ninth largest state. California would then be comparable with Texas. Add counties: Cook, Chicago; Harris, Houston; Maricopa, Phoenix. New York City is five counties, but it too makes more sense as a state than as part of one. Any two of these as new states would weaken the strangle-hold that small states have on progress.
All it takes is for a majority of Congress to want fair governance. Who could oppose that?
Ken Obenski is a forensic engineer, now safety and freedom advocate in South Kona. He writes a biweekly column for West Hawaii Today. Send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org