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Guest Commentary / Nov. 23, 2020

Establishing Uniform, Nationwide Voting Rules for National Elections

A convention is now a necessity and essential first step to establish nationwide, uniform rules.

By Paul S. Gardiner

This article offers a strategy for establishing uniform, nationwide rules for national elections where American citizens vote for president and vice president of the United States. A short summarization of eight important conclusions is provided following discussion of two basic options for establishing the needed rules.

Millions of Americans believe that uniform voting rules soon need to be established to help prevent instances of voter fraud and other illegal activities that transpired in multiple states during the recent November 3, 2020, national election. Evidence of voter fraud and other illegal activities during the election exists in the form of signed, sworn affidavits from hundreds of voters at polling stations and people serving as polling station monitors.

It is believed that there are only two options available to achieve nationwide, uniform voting rules for national elections:

1) The first option is for state legislatures in all 50 states to voluntarily agree on uniform rules for voting in national elections. Realistically, this option has a low probability of succeeding given the differing viewpoints on election matters such as early voting wherein state legislatures allow different time periods for citizens to cast ballots, etc. Further, from time to time, state legislators in one state (or several states) may decide to modify a particular voting rule or procedure irrespective of other states’ voting rules. Simply put, expecting 50 different state legislatures (Republican or Democrat controlled) to voluntarily agree on much of anything is most likely “a bridge too far.”

2) The second option to achieve nationwide, uniform national election voting rules is to secure an amendment to the United States Constitution, applicable in all 50 states, that specifies such rules. Many people feel that such an amendment is direly needed, but the question arises of how to secure such an amendment. Furthermore, how can this be achieved prior to the 2024 national elections?

A constitutional amendment typically is proposed by members of the United States Congress. The proposed amendment is then sent around to the legislatures in the 50 states for ratification by at least 38 legislatures. Only after successful ratification does an amendment become part of the Constitution and law of the land. Given today’s adversarial political environment in Congress and its frequent inability to accomplish much of anything, trying to get a constitutional voting amendment proposed and agreed to by members of both the House and Senate is very unlikely.

However, inherent in the second option to secure a constitutional amendment is the power and authority granted to state legislatures in Article V of the Constitution. Many Americans understand that when at least two-thirds of the state legislatures (34 legislatures) agree that an amendment or amendments are needed, they can apply to Congress to call for a convention of states to propose amendments. Upon receipt of at least 34 state applications/resolutions, Article V states that the Congress “Shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments.” Members of Congress have no choice in the matter; they are constitutionally required to call for a convention of states to propose amendments. An amendment proposed by a convention of state legislatures has the same ratification requirement as amendments proposed by Congress. For one reason or another, there has never been an Article V convention of states to propose constitutional amendments.

The above fact notwithstanding, this article argues that such a convention is now a necessity and essential first step to establish nationwide, uniform rules governing voting in national elections.

Requirements and limitations that might be included in an amendment governing voting in national elections are as follows:

1) In order to be counted as a legal ballot, all ballots must be cast and received by close of business on election day.

2) Absentee ballots, requested by registered voters, are the only mail-in ballots allowed.

3) With the exception of absentee ballots, all voting must be accomplished in person at prescribed polling stations.

4) Early in-person voting is allowed at prescribed polling stations up to 14 days prior to election day.

The question arises: What is the probability of 34 state legislatures applying to Congress to call/sanction a convention of states to propose the above amendment? To answer the question, a brief discussion of recent efforts to conduct a convention of states follows.

In recent years, there have been at least four citizen grassroots Article V organizations striving to have state legislators apply to Congress to call for a convention of states to propose one or more amendments. To date, there has been little, if any, cooperation among the four primary organizations attempting to reach the required threshold of 34 state legislature applications. The effort overall has slowed to such an extent that, realistically, the current disjointed strategy to hold a convention appears to be “dead in the water.”

One Article V organization, COS Project, limits and categorizes needed amendments into three broad subject areas: limiting the power/jurisdiction of the federal government; limiting the terms of office for its officials; and imposing fiscal restraints on the federal government. The other three primary Article V organizations strive to have Congress call a convention of states that limits the delegates to only proposing a single, specific amendment.

In his January 2020 “The Article V Convention Legislative Progress Report,” Georgia Attorney David F. Guldenschuh states: “The last half of the past decade saw the Article V movement peak, but the last two years have seen a plateauing of our efforts. We are now down to four major groups: the Center for State-led National Debt Solutions (CSNDS; the 501©(3) arm of the BBA Task Force); U.S. Term Limits; WolfPAC/Free & Fair Elections; and the Convention of States Project.”

In terms of numbers of state legislatures that have passed the different convention of states applications, the report indicates the following as of January 2020:

  • CSNDS/BBA Task Force application: passed in 28 states

  • COS Project application: passed in 15 states

  • WolfPAC Free & Fair Elections application: passed in 5 states

  • US Term Limits application: passed in 3 states

One of the major takeaways from the above report is that years 2018 and 2019 experienced a  "plateauing" of effort by the various Article V groups in securing the required 34 state applications. The same can be said about year 2020.

Unless there is a significant change in strategy, this article argues that not much will improve during year 2021 and beyond. In fact, efforts by different state legislatures to rescind applications for a convention of states might very well increase due to the growing presence of leftist, socialist politicians in state legislatures. This is a risk factor that must be taken into account when considering future strategy and timing.

Only through the use of aggregated, existing, and qualifying state applications/resolutions for a convention will it be possible in the near term to successfully require Congress to call for a convention of states.

As part of the suggested new strategy, this article argues that it is truly time to put aside differences and strive for strong unity of effort among the different Article V groups. In order for this to happen, one of the four groups (or perhaps a completely new entrant) has to come forth to provide the foresight, strategic leadership, courage, and financial resources to make it happen.

Paul S. Gardiner served as Georgia Coalitions Director and National Veterans Coalitions Director for the Article V COS Project organization. He is a retired Army officer, Vietnam veteran, and avid lover of America. He is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the University of Alabama, and the United States Army War College.

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