Column: Hawaii, here’s why constitutional amendment is needed now
Amending the U.S. Constitution is difficult and it should be. Article V of the Constitution describes two ways that an amendment may be proposed: either by Congress or by a Convention of State delegates.
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Amending the U.S. Constitution is difficult and it should be. Article V of the Constitution describes two ways that an amendment may be proposed: either by Congress or by a Convention of State delegates. Then it must be ratified by three-fourths of the states to become part of the Constitution. This is a high bar as demonstrated by the Equal Rights Amendment, proposed by Congress in 1972, that never reached the necessary 38 states to ratify it. Four other amendments had similar fates.
There are perennial calls from members of Congress for a constitutional amendment addressing campaign finance reform. However, despite the fact that over 90% of Americans support an end to the current dysfunctional system, no amendment on this has ever been passed by Congress. The coercive pressure on our congressional delegations from special-interest groups and corporations to retain the current free-for-all on campaign spending is overwhelming to all but a few.
The amendment-convention process deliberately bypasses Congress because the founders anticipated a time when Congress might become corrupt and unresponsive to the will of the people. This process requires Congress to act when two-thirds of state legislatures (34 states) call for an amendment on a particular topic.
The Free and Fair Elections Resolution (already passed in Vermont, California, Illinois, New Jersey, Rhode Island) calls for an amendment convention to fix our broken campaign-finance system. It was first introduced in the Hawaii Legislature in 2015 when it passed the House, but was not heard in the Senate. Since then, the resolution has passed the state Senate the last two years in a row, and now has widespread support among our state legislators.
However, some people in Hawaii have been duped by an elaborate, well-funded disinformation effort designed to deny states their right to draft amendments to the U.S. Constitution. They oppose the Free and Fair Elections Resolution and recently have gone even further to oppose any resolution calling for a “national constitutional convention.”
The reasons why some oppose our resolution may involve their natural antipathy toward a right-wing group, the “Convention of States.” This group is calling for conservative constitutional amendments that have nothing to do with campaign finance.
Some also endorse an alarmist, unrealistic theory that an amendment convention would allow a “rewrite of the Constitution.” This theory is debunked by all peer-reviewed research, including work by the Department of Justice, the Congressional Research Service, and the American Bar Association. Each of these organizations has concluded that an amendment convention may be limited to a single topic and that any amendment drafted at a convention would ultimately need to be ratified by 38 states in order to become part of the Constitution. No amendment, unless supported by the vast majority of Americans, could ever be ratified.
As the son of a “boomer” who marched with Martin Luther King Jr. on Washington and the grandson of an Army veteran deeply affected by the devastation he witnessed during the reconstruction in Germany, I was raised with a deep compassion for all people and an equally passionate desire for equal rights for all.
The government should be subject to the will of the people, not to special interests. The current attempts being made to de-legitimize Article V of the Constitution, on the other hand, are not supporting “We The People”; they are the real threats to the Constitution and must be stopped.
Please contact your state legislator to express support for this important resolution. Let’s put Hawaii in the history books as one of the earliest states to call for free and fair elections — free of the corrupting influence of money and fair enough so that average Americans (not just the rich and well-connected) have a chance to be elected to office.
Jesse Francis is a freelance web developer who lives in Upcountry Maui.