A website launched Monday gives the public access to the government's own searchable, user-friendly annotated version of the Constitution.
The site is the work of the Library of Congress and fulfills a longtime desire of lawmakers, open government advocates and proponents of better civic education. It's launch comes on the eve of the 232nd anniversary of the day the Constitution's drafters signed their work and sent it to the states for ratification.
The resource is known as "Constitution Annotated" because each section is accompanied by both "Plain English" commentary explaining relevant Supreme Court rulings and footnotes for further readings that provide modern context.
The new, public site is similar to that which the Library of Congress has long made available to members of Congress and staff.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, an icon of progressive democracy reformers, is throwing cold water one of their most ambitious wishes: Shuttering the Electoral College and electing presidents by national popular vote.
"It's largely a dream because our Constitution is … hard to amend," she told an audience Monday at the University of Chicago, the Chicago Sun-Times reported. "I know that from experience."
An alternative approach is to upend the system by having states commit their electors to supporting the national winner, not the winner of their states, but only once states controlling a majority of electoral votes (270) have done so. Such a compact has been joined by 15 states and Washington D.C., with 196 votes.
The 86-year-old justice, who revealed this summer she's been treated for pancreatic cancer, said this when asked how she'd encouraged those fighting to better democracy: "It's very hard to do anything as a loner, but if you get together with like-minded people, you can create a force for change. And if you look at things over the long haul, we have come a long way."
Almost 1,700 polling places have been closed in counties that are no longer subject to federal oversight brought on by past voting discrimination, according to a new study that was highlighted at a congressional hearing Tuesday.
The poll closings, documented in the report Democracy Diverted by the Leadership Conference Education Fund, was one of several examples witnesses gave of what they say are discriminatory practices that have occurred since the Supreme Court voided a key part of the Voting Rights Act six years ago.
Johnson is executive director of Election Reformers Network, an organization of election experts advancing nonpartisan reforms to U.S. democratic institutions.
With all eyes on the threats outsiders pose to the next presidential election, it seems we have forgotten the self-made dysfunction at the center of our democracy. Another presidential election approaches, with another victory to the popular vote loser a distinct possibility. Campaigns will again focus exclusively on a handful of states, and voting will be an inconsequential civic gesture for the vast majority. Other pitfalls lurk that we largely ignore, like another Florida-style recount or the decision getting "thrown to the House," which could give final say to the minority party.
A verdict Wednesday from the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver may add another Jack-in-the-box element: electors free to vote as they choose, regardless of the results in their state. If the Supreme Court agrees that Colorado's removal of a faithless elector in 2016 was unconstitutional, a new level of uncertainty will pervade our presidential elections.
A solution to these many problems, the National Popular Vote, has made considerable progress in blue states this year, but faces a long road. NPV needs to win enactment in purple states like Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, and then survive this Supreme Court, where the majority seems to have little concern for the needs of our democracy, as the Rucho v. Common Cause decision illustrates. In the words of scholar Edward Foley, the majority "rejects the primacy of democracy as an organizing constitutional principle."
At least with stopping partisan gerrymandering, we have a fallback after the Supreme Court decided not to act: state level independent redistricting commissions. We have no such developed, viable alternative to NPV; Rucho makes clear it is time to start working on one.