Democracy is the only form of government in which “all political power is vested in and derived from the people.
Direct democracy is sometimes referred to as “pure democracy” because the form of the government, the “just powers” of the government, what rights are to be secured and protected by the government, and what other laws are to be enacted, are all determined by conducting referendums in which every citizen of a state or nation has an equal vote and the “consent of the majority” determines the outcome. Referendums are the primary means by which major decisions related to governing take place in a direct democracy.
Referendums can be called by various methods: by a legislative body, according to mandates in a constitution, or by the people through the “initiative", which gives citizens the power to “originate” legislation, including constitutional amendments, without the involvement or approval of a legislature. The “direct initiative” is the most common form of the initiative. Proposed legislation is drafted in the form of a petition and citizens who want a referendum on the legislation being proposed sign the petition. A referendum on the proposed legislation is conducted if the required number of signatures have been collected, submitted, and verified by a specified date.
Referendums and the initiative make it considerably more likely that government will be "instituted for the good of the whole".
Efforts are underway in some state legislatures to make it more difficult to call referendums and use the initiative. If these antidemocratic amendments are enacted, it will be a significant setback for democracy in Missouri.
When it comes to defending democracy, an adage commonly associated with sports and warfare applies – “the best defense is a good offense”. We need to do more than defend democracy. We need to proactively promote democracy. We need to make it easier to call referendums and use the initiative.
In a perfect democracy, referendums should be conducted any time it appears likely that a majority of the citizens of a state or nation are opposed to a law or amendment that has been passed by a legislature or that a legislature has failed to enact legislation that is supported by a majority of the citizens.
The adoption of referendums and/or the initiative in twenty-three states in the twenty-year period between 1898 and 1918 was one of the most significant and enduring victories of the Progressive and Populist movements that took place in America in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
There are twenty-six states in America that currently have provisions for referendums and/or the initiative in their state constitutions. There is no provision for the people to originate legislation or call referendums in the Constitution of the United States.
The single most powerful reform we can enact to make America a perfect democracy is to extend the use of referendums and the initiative to the federal government and to the states that do not yet provide for them in their constitutions and make it easier to call referendums and use the initiative.
As incredible as it may seem, there is a single elegantly simple, yet incredibly powerful, reform that will circumvent the problems with our elections, reduce the corrupting effects of money, and instantly transform our broken and dysfunctional political system into a pure democracy.
Pure Democracy Amendments will extend the use of referendums and the initiative to the states that do not yet provide for them and to the federal government and make it much easier for citizens to utilize these powerful forms of pure democracy. The exact language of Pure Democracy Amendments will vary from state to state and with regard to the federal government based on differences in the language and composition of constitutions.
The common elements of Pure Democracy Amendments will be to allow citizens to sign initiative petitions securely online and allow “super-minorities” of one-third or more of the members in either house of Congress and state legislatures to call referendums or put proposals on the ballot through the initiative.
Pure Democracy Amendments will:
Pure Democracy Amendments will instantly transform America into a pure democracy and empower the people of America to enact the additional reforms needed to make America a perfect democracy.
The argument will be made that, if we make it too easy to put proposals on the ballot or call for referendums, we will be inundated with frivolous, or even dangerous, legislation. Due to the tremendous backlog of necessary legislation not being passed due to the corruption, dysfunction, and gridlock endemic within the present system, there will presumably be a noticeably greater number of proposals put on the ballot in states with referendums and the initiative once Pure Democracy Amendments are adopted. After that initial rush of activity passes, it is certainly possible that some adjustments will need to be made to find the proper balance with regard to how easy or difficult it is to get proposals on the ballot. However, if we want to fully realize the blessings of pure democracy, it is far better to refer too many proposals to the people, rather than not referring nearly as many as we should.
The best way to limit the use of the initiative is to render it less necessary for the people to propose legislation by having a Congress and state legislatures that are more in harmony with the will of the people. Implementing systems of Proxies for Citizens will result in the legislation supported by the people being enacted through Congress and state legislatures.
Concerns regarding giving “super-minorities” of the members of legislative bodies the power to call referendums (and initiate legislation) are also likely to be expressed. The only power that Pure Democracy Amendments give to super-minorities is the power to refer legislation to the people. Giving the people the power to accept or reject legislation makes a government a pure democracy and gives a government the form of a perfect democracy.
Allowing citizens to sign petitions electronically should not be a concern. A system allowing citizens of the European Union to sign statements of support for initiative petitions online, rather than signing paper petitions, has been in place since 2011. It has worked so well that, as of January 1, 2023, the European Union has gone exclusively to statements of support filed online. Not only is signing petitions online easier and more convenient, but when people sign statements of support securely online, every is that all the statements of support can reasonably be considered legitimate. There is no need for election officials to check signatures and no signatures are preemptively rejected.
The citizens of the United States reserve the powers to propose laws and amendments to this Constitution by the initiative, independent of Congress; to call a convention to propose amendments to this Constitution; and or order referendums to approve or reject any act of Congress, as hereinafter provided.
Initiative petitions proposing federal laws or amendments to this Constitution, calling a convention to propose amendments to this Constitution, or ordering a referendum, shall be signed by or statements of support shall be submitted electronically by a number of citizens equal to, or greater than, seven percent of the number of citizens who cast votes in the last presidential election.
Members of Congress shall have the power to propose legislation and amendments to this Constitution, to call a convention to consider amendments to this Constitution, or to order a referendum to approve or reject an act of Congress, by legislative initiative. Legislative initiative petitions shall be signed by one-third or more either the Senate or the House of Representatives.
When a referendum is called to approve or reject an act of Congress, that act shall be suspended and shall not take effect unless and until it has been approved by voters in that referendum.
Members of the legislatures of states with a combined population equal to or greater than one-third of the total population of the United States of America, as determined by the last census, may propose amendments to this Constitution or call a convention to consider amendments to this Constitution whenever one-third or more of the members of either legislative chamber of a state legislature, or of a unicameral legislature, sign petitions proposing an amendment or calling for a convention to consider amendments to this Constitution.
If a constitutional convention is called, each state shall send a number of delegates to the convention equal to the number of seats held by that state in the U. S. House of Representatives. Delegates to the convention shall be citizens of the United States who are qualified to vote and shall be elected at-large in each state through elections using ranked choice voting. Elections of delegates to the convention shall take place in each state, as determined by the state legislature, on a date no sooner than 60 days nor longer than 90 days after the required number of signatures or statements of support for a constitutional convention have been submitted to Congress. The convention will convene on a date determined by the House of Representatives, not less than 30 days nor more than 60 days after delegates have been elected in all fifty states. The House of Representatives shall enact legislation providing for reasonable compensation and accommodations for delegates to the convention.
Each delegate to the convention shall have the power to propose amendments to this Constitution. Each delegate to the convention shall be entitled to cast a single vote on every issue that comes before the convention, including procedural matters. Only those amendments approved by a majority of the delegates to the convention shall be submitted to the citizens of the United States for ratification or rejection.
Regardless of the method by which a law or amendment was proposed, or a referendum called, referendums shall be conducted on the fourth day of July, for laws and amendments proposed or referendums called for on or before the fourth day of April of each year, and on the fourth day of July of the following year for amendments proposed after the fourth day of April.
Laws that are approved and amendments that are ratified by majority vote in referendums shall take effect thirty days after the referendum.
If a majority of the citizens nationwide vote to ratify an amendment depriving states of equal suffrage in the U. S. Senate, the citizens of any state where a majority of the citizens voted to reject that proposed amendment may, by majority vote in a subsequent referendum, elect to withdraw from the United States of America. Referendums proposing that a state withdraw from the United States of America are to be conducted no less than ninety days, nor more than one hundred and eighty days after an amendment that was rejected by the voters of a given state was ratified by a majority vote nationwide.
Allowing constitutional amendments to be proposed by a simple majority vote in either the Senate or the House of Representatives or by the legislatures of states with a combined population equal to or greater than a majority of the total population and ratified by a majority vote of the people will bring our Constitution in line with two essential elements of a perfect democracy – majority rule and equal representation. A democratic amendment process is necessary for us to live up to the ideals upon which our government was founded – that governments derive their “just powers” from “the consent of the governed”.
By making the process of amending our Constitution itself antidemocratic, the fifty-five men who drafted and adopted our Constitution (and only men had the right to vote at that time) extended the grip of their decisions to posterity.
The antidemocratic nature of the amendment process embedded in our Constitution makes it nearly impossible to change our form of government and locks an antidemocratic system in place – in effect, allowing the dead to govern the living. The decisions made by fifty-five men over 200 years ago should be more amenable to being modified or reversed to meet the needs and serve the interests of the present generation.
The ability of a minority of the members of Congress (and state legislatures) to block much needed reforms is bad enough. The ability of a minority to extend their tyranny over time, tyrannizing us from beyond the grave, is considerably worse.
The fact that the dead have no right to govern the living is a point that has been made by some of our most enlightened political philosophers.
Some of the delegates to the Federal Convention of 1787 argued (in vain) that –
George Mason’s concerns regarding trusting needed changes to “chance and violence” have been echoed by others:
At least so far, Burke’s dire warning has not proven accurate with regard to the Unites States. The Constitution of the United States is the oldest constitution in the world continuously in effect despite the fact that it is the most difficult constitution in the world to amend. With the painful and bloody exception of the Civil War, we have so far avoided massive violence is settling constitutional issues. That may not be the case much longer.
“We the people” adopted the Constitution, not “We the States.” We, the people, should be able to amend constitutions by simple majorities. Neither Congress nor state legislatures should be able to “check” our right to amend our Constitution.
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