“We the People,” the words that lead off the preamble of the U.S. Constitution, represent the foundation of our democracy. Our farseeing founders wrote the Constitution to be a flexible document. They envisioned the idea that as the needs of society changed, the Constitution could be amended. This has occurred on a number of occasions, for example the addition of the 20th Amendment for women’s right to vote.
I would like to recommend several changes that would serve to bring our Constitution up-to-date in the 21st century, returning more power back to “We the People.”
1. I would like to recommend a reconfiguration of the presidential campaign. Beginning the campaign two years before the presidential election has become a major distraction. Conducting regular government business has been overshadowed by lengthy campaigning.
Instead, the campaign to become a candidate for the president of the United States should begin on April 1 of the election year. This would allow ample time for candidates to state their positions on the issues in their attempt to gain the votes of “We the People.”
After four months of campaigning, the candidates would vie for their party’s choice in an open National Primary the first week in September. The top vote-getters in each party would be the presidential candidate and the runners-up would be the vice-presidential candidate. Thus “We the People” would have the final choice in the selection of the presidential and vice presidential candidates. Party conventions, held after the primary, would develop their party’s platform and reaffirm the presidential and vice presidential choices.
Following the conventions, the candidates would have from Sept. 1 until the national election day, the second Tuesday in November, to campaign for our votes.
2. “We the People” would be better served if we had term limits established for both the Senate and House of Representatives. This would encourage bringing more diverse ideas to the table, thus strengthening our core democracy. Two terms for the senators and six terms for the representatives would mean that both would have the opportunity to serve their country a total of 12 years.
3. We need to change the way we nominate a Supreme Court justice.
In our traditional nomination process, the president nominates the new justice and the Senate confirms the nomination. I recommend that a bipartisan committee of attorneys be selected by the Justice Department when a justice opening occurs. Candidates who are qualified, according to criteria set forth by the Justice Department, would be able to file an application for the vacant position. The committee would review the applications and narrow the list down to five candidates. The committee would then interview the candidates and recommend the candidate of their choice to the Senate Judicial Committee for confirmation.
To further enhance our democratic process, a new Justice would have a 20-year appointment. The new rule would eliminate the lifetime appointment now in place, thus better serving “We the People” by keeping partisan politics at a much lower level, strengthening our democracy.
4. Gerrymandering has been practiced since the beginning of the formation of our democracy. At present, the redistricting is primarily partisan. When there is a need for redistricting based on the 2020 census results, a bipartisan committee should be formed to draw the new district boundaries to ensure voting fairness to “We the People.” Some states, including Maine, already have bipartisan redistricting committees that redraw both congressional and legislative districts based on population changes. This is a model other states should follow.
5. Finally, a citizens’ committee, representative of all parties, needs to be appointed to develop a new method of campaign financing that would give all candidates an equal opportunity to run for the Senate or the House of Representative without the influence of big money.
In conclusion, in a free and open vibrant society, changes are sometimes needed. “We the People” deserve to be heard as the time has come to update the Constitution to help ensure a robust future for our democracy.
Bob Chaplin of Bar Harbor is a retired teacher.