Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Abolish the Wisconsin State Constitution!

Let's call a State Constitutional Convention and toss the whole thing out.

Why? Because the only realistic way that this country will ever get rid of its two-party, winner-take-all federal election system is for the states to redefine the way that is done on a state by state basis. Article One, Section 4 of the U.S. Constitution provides that the States shall decide the "Times, Places, and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives..."*

We could reorganize the state government in the following ways:

1. The state legislative houses will be changed to allow proportional representation. A political party receiving 5% of the popular vote would receive 5% of the votes in the legislative bodies. The legislative bodies would then choose an executive by simple majority vote. In essence, the state government would be a parliamentary system.

2. Federal elections for the House of Representatives would continue to be held biannually, with seats being awarded proportionally to the participating parties that receive a certain minimum percentage of the vote. Wisconsin, with its eight representatives, would probably need to require something like 12.5% of the vote to get a seat.

3. Federal elections for "winner take all" offices (i.e. President and Senate) would implement so-called "instant runoff" voting. Rather than selecting a single candidate, voters would rank candidates in order of preference. If a particular voter's first choice is not one of the top two candidates after the first round of votes are tabulated, his vote is reassigned to the next candidate by rank on his ballot. The voters benefit by not having to make tactical calculations when voting for elected officials, and candidates from non-duopoly parties could run strong campaigns without the fear that doing so would result in the election of their own ideological opposite.

Anyway, it's just an idea I am kicking around. If you have thoughts, e-mail me at

You can see the current Wisconsin Constitution here. (Requires Adobe Acrobat Reader).

*Of course, the same article provides that Congress may overrule state legislative Time, Place, and Manner decisions, and the Supremacy Clause means that any such statutory enactments would trump state Constitutional law. It could be a problem.

UPDATE: I just read a FindLaw article talking about a recent US Supreme Court Gerrymandering case. Proportional representation would fix that, too!


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