Home General Text of Senator Nelson’s Proposed Constitutional Amendment for Direct Presidential Election

Text of Senator Nelson’s Proposed Constitutional Amendment for Direct Presidential Election

Published on June 15, 2008, by in General.

U.S. Senator Bill Nelson (D-Florida) recently introduced SJR 39, which would provide for the direct election of the president. The wording is now available. It reads, “Sec. 1. The President and Vice President shall be jointly elected by the direct vote of the qualified electors of the several States and territories and the District constituting the seat of Government of the United States. The electors in each State, territory, and the District constituting the seat of Government of the United States shall have the qualifications requisite for electors of the most numerous branch of the legislative body where they reside.

Section 2. Congress may determine the time, place and manner of holding the election, the entitlement to inclusion on the ballot, and the manner in which the results of the election shall be ascertained and declared.”

If this amendment were passed, the ballot access laws for president would be in the hands of Congress. The United States and Switzerland are now the only nations in the world in which the election laws for national elections are not written by the national government.

Congress has written a ballot access for presidential elections once. Congress had to write such a law for the District of Columbia, after the 23rd Amendment was passed giving D.C. its own presidential electors. The original law, passed in 1961, provided for a petition of 5% of the number of registered voters in the District. No one even tried to use it until 1972, when both the Socialist Workers Party, and the Communist Party, tried to use it to get on the D.C. ballot for president. The petition that year required 13,319 signatures. Both parties submitted more signatures than the minimum, but the D.C. Board of Elections rejected both petitions for not having enough valid signatures. Both parties sued, arguing that they did have enough signatures. Neither party won its lawsuit. However, this prompted the Board to ask Congress to lower the requirement, to avoid the hassle. Congress obliged, lowering it to 1% of the number of registered voters in 1973. That law still stands. Nowadays the D.C. City Council has the authority to pass its own election laws, subject to veto by Congress.

The Nelson Amendment would grant U.S. citizens a vote for president, if they live in Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, American Samoa, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. However, most residents of American Samoa are not U.S. citizens, just U.S. nationals. Thanks to Thomas Jones.

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  1. Ross

    Would passing this be a good thing or a bad thing?

  2. The present situation clearly spot lights the fact that the 21st Century USA is not a democracy, not a republic, but a global, fascist, imperial empire!

  3. Richard

    If we had a national ballot access law in presidential elections, and if it were tolerant, it would be a good thing. We wouldn’t be at the mercy of state legislatures in states like Oklahoma, Georgia, North Carolina, Texas, Indiana and West Virginia. But of course it is possible Congress would pass an intolerant standard.

  4. Also very important is the fact that the phrase “elected by the direct vote of the qualified electors” does not require the plurality counting rule. It would allow Congress to adopt two-round runoff, IRV, etc. I think the language in Section 2 makes this pretty explicit.

    The chance of ratification by three-fourths of the state legislatures is between zero and none. But I see this proposal as very positive anyway.

  5. Demo Rep

    The MORON proposal fails to even mention the term of office — i.e. 4 years.

    The MORON proposal would let the States play games with the definition of Elector — how about 1 day old folks voting for Prez ???

    Trusting the gerrymander Congress to have EQUAL ballot access laws for Prez is like trusting Hitler to be a good little boy in 1942 — when he was killing millions.

    What gerrymander election WILL cause Civil WAR II — like Civil WAR I after the 1860 gerrymander election ???

    Remedy –
    Uniform definition of Elector in ALL of the U.S.A.
    Equal ballot access for all candidates for the same office in the same area.
    P.R. legislative, A.V. executive/judicial

    Way too difficult for the EVIL and vicious ANTI- Democracy New Age gerrymander MONSTERS in the Congress and all 50 State legislatures.

  6. With recounts frequently changing the number of votes a person received, how can we be certain that the person with the most votes actually received the most votes?

    Section 2 gives Congress too much power regarding electing who goes to Congress. The details regarding minor party candidates should be spelled out and should apply to major party candidates as well.

    I think the current plan of states choosing that their electors go to the person with the most votes nationally getting their electors is a much better system. If it turns out that it doesn’t work, it is a lot easier to overturn than a constitutional amendment would be.

  7. Richard: it is possible Congress would pass an intolerant standard.

    Yes. Would that be easier to change or harder to change than separate intolerant standards in 5 or 10 states? Also, would a uniform but somewhat intolerant standard be easier for candidates to meet than separate standards in each state?

  8. This proposed Direct Presidential Election is not direct. It is the Same Old Electoral College system repackaged. It will thwart any hope of Democracy in America. The Vote of every man and woman is a living entity. It is not stamped for approval by a State Legislature. Plus, nowhere in our constitution do we give voting status to Territories. An amendment like this is the Last Choice for America. I suggest we have a True Direct Election Amendment that replaces the archaic Electoral College System with a Popular Vote Election. The concept is simple, HE or She with the most votes wins! What is so flawed about that? For that matter, lets add a clause to begin trying out an Online Voting system. With the security of failsafe authentication, the internet can be a safe and efficient place to cast our votes!

  9. David Jon Sponheim: I suggest we have a True Direct Election Amendment that replaces the archaic Electoral College System with a Popular Vote Election.

    Please reread the text of the Nelson proposal. It does exactly what you ask for.

  10. Jim R

    Senator Nelson should introduce complementary legislation that would go into effect contingent on ratification of his constitutional amendment.

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