Is it time to amend the U.S. Constitution again?
September 1, 2021 | View PDF
Sept. 17, 2021 is Constitution Day, the 234th anniversary of the U.S. Constitution. The state of Alaska, and several of its local jurisdictions have called for a Constitutional Amendment to implement needed reforms. To understand the need for changes to our Constitution, we need to understand the Constitution we have.
Our Constitution establishes the fundamental structures of our democracy and helps protect us against governmental abuses. The drafters also provided for changes (amendments) to the Constitution. Jefferson wrote that it ought to be reviewed every generation, so it is adapted to modern times.
The Constitution has been amended only 27 times since it was enacted. The first 10 amendments, the Bill of Rights, passed in 1791, include our basic liberties such as freedom of speech, religion and press, due process and equal protection rights and other rights. Amendments 13 through 15 abolish slavery and involuntary servitude and guarantee civil rights for the freed slaves.
The 17th Amendment provides for the popular election of senators. Women won the right to vote in 1920 with ratification of the 19th Amendment. The 22nd Amendment sets term limits for the presidency. The 26th amendment was ratified in 1971 and granted the right to vote to persons 18 and over. The most recent amendment was enacted in 1992, and limits when Congress may vote to increase their own salaries.
Many people believe it is time for another amendment. The issue of big money drowning out the voices of ordinary citizens in electoral politics, and dark money hijacking our deliberations on public policy has risen to the top for many. It is court decisions that have allowed this to occur, and as such only a constitutional amendment can fully address them.
U.S. House Joint Resolution 48 is one proposal to enact such an amendment. It can be read at http://www.movetoamend.org/amendment. It provides that Constitutional rights are for natural persons only, that money is not speech, and our elected representatives have the authority and duty to regulate political campaign finances. Twenty-two states (including Alaska) have passed resolutions supporting a constitutional amendment like HJR 48.
A constitutional amendment, if passed by Congress, is referred to the states for approval. It takes effect if three-fourths of the states vote to ratify. An Article Five Constitutional Convention may also be called, but this has never been used.
Such an amendment is the way that Alaska’s campaign finance laws can be restored, which will be covered in the next installment of this series of articles.
Beverly Churchill is a member of Alaska Move to Amend, whose mission includes educating Alaskans on constitutional issues regarding personhood and money as a form of free speech.