Brooklyn has a plan to fix democracy
The borough's proposal for a 28th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution
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A few months ago, I was invited to be part of a very special project. Brooklyn, never lacking for swag, had taken it upon itself to propose an amendment to the Constitution. And they wanted me to serve as one of the “framers.”
The Brooklyn Public Library was behind the project. It went to heroic efforts to solicit public opinion across the borough about what people might want in an amendment. A team of organizers helped to sort through and systematize the multitude of answers. Because our systems are so broken, there were so many ideas about fixing them.
Then it was our job, as a small handful of “framers” (Susan Herman, Kimberly Peeler-Allen, Nathaniel Rich, and me), to distill what the people of Brooklyn wanted down to one amendment. After some deliberation, we settled on a theory and then on some language.
The theory was this: A great many things the people of Brooklyn want are not forthcoming because of a more fundamental problem: minority rule in American life, through institutions such as the electoral college and two-seat-per-state Senate representation. Addressing that basic problem would in turn make a variety of other problems solvable. So we drafted an amendment that abolishes the electoral college, protects the vote and creates a holiday for it, fixes Senate representation, and more.
And then, in the second article of the proposed amendment, we decided to push toward what a revivified democracy might actually do once it could do again.
With the election eight days away and many of you already voting early, I hope, I wanted to send you into the week with the proposed amendment text — a reminder of the work that will lie ahead to reform our political system even after Trump is gone.
And if you want to join us for a live conversation to discuss the 28th Amendment, some of the other framers and I will be happy to see you tomorrow at 7 p.m. ET.
The 28th Amendment — a proposal
Whereas the government of the United States should represent all of the people of the United States equally,
Section 1. The Electoral College shall be abolished and the President selected by popular vote; Senate membership shall be reallocated to reflect more accurately the distribution of the national population, with a minimum of one seat per state; Election Day shall be a national holiday; elections shall be publicly financed. All citizens of the United States, including those living in its territories and the District of Columbia, shall have the same electoral rights and representation as residents of a State; all citizens of voting age shall have the unencumbered right to vote in federal, state, and local elections. Congress shall have the power and obligation to enforce these provisions by appropriate legislation.
Section 2. In recognition of the inherent dignity of all persons, Congress shall have the power and obligation to enact appropriate legislation to secure all rights guaranteed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, including the right to education, healthcare, housing, employment, food security, and a clean and healthy environment.
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Photo: Anand Giridharadas