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Constitutional education, history, commentary, reform, compliance, and interpretation.

2010/04/29

Don't repeal 17th Amendment

But do something else.

There are many calls being heard to repeal the 17th Amendment that provided for the direct popular election of members of the U.S. Senate, instead of election by state legislatures. Proponents for such repeal argue for the original intent of the election of U.S. senators by state legislatures that it would better serve to protect the reserved powers of the states from encroachment by the central government, and that state legislators would bring more expertise to the selection process.

Unfortunately, that never worked as it was designed. What actually happened was that special interests, such as banking, railroads, oil, and steel, found that they could buy tU.S. senators for a lot less through state legislators than through direct popular election.

Most state legislatures had no strong desire to protect their citizens from the central government. They were more interested in getting federal money. Accepting large donations in exchange for voting for the U.S. Senate candidate of choice of the donor was a matter of almost all upside and little downside.

There is a reason why by 1912 so many state legislatures were holding popular referenda to nominate U.S. senators and then just rubber-stamping the popular choice.

What we find today, of course, is that direct popular election is not a remedy for political corruption, either.

The solution is to do something completely different, as I propose in one of my Draft Amendments:

Selection of members of legislative bodies not elected by population

Members of the United States Senate, and houses of state legislatures whose members represent political subdivisions not based on population, shall be selected by a multi-stage nominating process that first randomly selects precinct panels of twenty-four, who then elect a person from each precinct, from among whom are randomly selected twenty-four persons for the next higher jurisdiction or district, and thus by alternating random selection and election to the next level, when they reach the top level, the number of randomly selected candidates shall be five, who shall be the nominees on the ballot for the final election by general voters, except that general voters may write-in other persons. Voters may vote for more than one nominee, using the method of approval voting. There must also be an alternative of "none of the above". The nominee receiving the most votes shall be declared elected, unless "none of the above" wins, in which case the position shall remain vacant.
This proposed amendment does not eliminate direct popular election, as the final stage. It only establishes a different nomination process, but an amendment is needed because Congress has no power to regulate nomination processes. The method for nomination is called sortition, or random selection. It removes the corrupting influence of big money, except in the final stage of the direct election.

If it was desired to eliminate the undue influence of big money altogether, the last stage of direct election could be eliminated and sortition used to select the U.S. senator as the final stage.



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