Voters should think about the president’s veto power
Flooded with oratory by the candidates, it is not amiss to reflect that as a nation we never vote on issues, only for persons who make promises which may be, but often are not, kept once they are in office.
European countries hold national plebiscites on continuing a monarchy, joining the European Union, accepting Euros in place of francs, guilders, pesos, etc.
We, however, persist as an elitist representative republic, not a direct democracy; nationally, we trust to fortune that our elected betters will work the common will.
Initiative, referendum, and recall laws still accord fewer than half our states direct vote on local issues.
Because national plebiscites could bypass the congress and the president, national initiative, referendum, and recall can be established only by constitutional amendment. In the 1970s such an amendment was proposed and backed by many, including Ralph Nader. However, introduced in congress (a body often timid to legislate but always jealous of its primacy), any National Initiative Amendment proposal was bound to fail to secure the needed two thirds vote there.
That failure need not be the final word however, for the U.S. Constitution offers an alternative which bypass any vote by Congress. Article V states: “The Congress...on the Application of the Legislatures of two-thirds of the several states, shall call a convention for proposing amendments, which...shall be valid...when ratified by the legislatures of three-fourths of the several states, or by conventions in three-fourths thereof...”
Cautioning the U.S. against “national initiatives” Washington Post writer David Broder warns fearfully, in his new book Democracy Derailed: “the experience with the initiative process at the state level in the past two decades is that wealthy individuals and special interests have learned...to subvert the process to their own purposes.”
Broder only barely notes in passing that this latter-day corruption, which Oregon and Colorado law sought to eliminate, is now protected by the very body meant top shield the states, the U.S. Supreme Court: The court recently ruled unconstitutional that laws permitting only unpaid circulation of ballot petitions; signatures, the court ruled, may still, in effect, be bought.
Therefore it is important that any amendment to enable direct national vote on issues guarantees that beyond a measure’s central or local headquarters, signatures on petitions for place on nationwide ballot be sought by unpaid volunteers only and that solicitation at workplaces is prohibited and petitions printed as paid advertising disqualified.
Passage by a nationwide simple majority should exempt a measure from presidential veto, or congressional amendment or nullification.
National issues could be economically balloted at presidential and biennial congressional elections, after notification of congress that two-thirds of all state legislatures have verified petitions on a measure from 5 percent of their electorates. Petition circulation and verifying for federal plebiscites would be done in the states responsible for election details.
Foreseeing the bright possibilities in national plebiscites, might not our dropped-out voters return to the polls – and help elect president the candidate who proposes to work for passage of an afore-outlined constitutional amendment?
Judith Segard Hunt