Editor’s Note: A guest post by Shreveport attorney Royal Alexander, who knows a thing or two about the Constitution.
In the last few days there has been a torrent of ideas—such as abolishing the Electoral College, limiting the presidential pardon power and creating term limits for members of Congress—emanating from the new Congress. (In the past there have also been efforts to abolish the 2nd Amendment and make D.C. the 51st state). I have been asked about some of them and wanted to briefly respond.
All of these issues—Electoral College, pardon power, term limits, 2nd Amendment and D.C statehood—are either expressly provided for or specifically addressed in our Constitution. The Framers of our Constitution designed that inspired document so that it requires an often lengthy and arduous process to amend it. Article V provides for two ways to amend our Constitution. One requires an action initiated by having Congress propose amendments but the other—the 2nd method of amending the Constitution—does not; it allows the States (through their state legislatures) to initiate the effort. Article V clearly and specifically outlines what is necessary to amend our Constitution: The 1st method is the one initiated by Congress itself if 2/3rds of both Houses of Congress (U.S. House and U.S. Senate) propose and approve an amendment; the 2nd method is based upon the legislatures of 2/3rds of the states applying to Congress for a convention, at which time Congress must call a convention for proposing an amendment. And, if either of these two methods results in an amendment, that amendment becomes a part of our Constitution only if and when it is ratified by 3/4ths of our State Legislatures or by state conventions in 3/4ths of the States. (Whether the ratification is by state legislatures themselves or by conventions in each state will be proposed and determined by the Congress).
As you can imagine, any proposal to amend our Constitution requires an enormous amount of effort and coordination. Again, it is supposed to be difficult to amend our national constitution and it is. However, the power to do so exists in Article V and I feel the Framers were brilliant to empower the states with their own method of doing so.
P.S. Many voices attempt to undermine the notion of an Amendment Convention as “dangerous” or “risky” because it could, purportedly, become a “runaway convention.” [In my view, many of these voices simply prefer the status quo because it benefits them]. I respectfully disagree with that premise. Even if 2/3rds of the Congress or 2/3rds of the States are able to convene and send an amendment out it would still have to be ratified by 3/4ths of the states. That means 38 states would have to agree before the amendment became a part of the Constitution. So, it would only take 13 states to defeat the proposed amendment. That’s a very high hurdle to clear.