Step 2: Congress & The Election Reform Constitutional Amendment

It’s no secret what’s needed to reform our elections. The standard must be free and fair. This means overturning Citizens United, prioritize voters over donors, and lower the cost to run.

As Congress is compromised by big donors and the Supreme Court regularly overturns even moderate election reforms, these changes can only happen by a citizens-led Constitutional Amendment. Passing it through Congress requires two-thirds of both houses. It won’t be easy, but it also won’t be impossible. It starts with the Election Reform Constitutional Amendment.

Press Members of Congress to Pass Election Reform Amendment

Due to the corrupting, out-of-control nature of our campaign finance system, the average voter enjoys little voice or influence in the election process. For instance:

  • The average winning Congressional candidate will raise 72% of their funds from outside their districts.¹

  • Incumbents spend 70% of their time fundraising for themselves and the national party.² 

  • For the entire 2020 election cycle, the ad industry predicts $10 billion will be raised and spent on political advertising.³

All of this outsized, outside money only serves to undemocratically transfer political influence and access from voters to the rich donor class. The Election Reform Amendment will change this by removing about 80% of money from our campaigns. Its key reform will prohibit federal candidates from accepting donations from any source not eligible to vote for them. This ends PACs, corporate donations and rich outside giving.

A few loopholes will need closing. See how these are addressed below, as well as some extra items to reform other parts of our democracy:

Election Reform Constitutional Amendment

  1. Candidates may accept campaign donations and in-kind contributions only from individuals eligible to vote for them. 

  2. Overturn the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling by declaring:

    • Corporations are not people, in any respect or context.

    • Political donations are not free speech and can be regulated.

    • An effective end to “dark” money by prohibiting major broadcast, cable, print, digital and social media outlets from running paid political ads submitted by any entity that lacks a transparent donor list or has foreign ties.

    • A ban on candidate-specific outside advertisements within 30 days of the start of balloting. (“Outside” is defined as any person or entity that is not the campaign of a registered candidate in that race.)

  3. Limit spending by political parties to only party-building activities. No in-kind contributions or direct/indirect candidate-specific electioneering is allowed. 

  4. No primary can be scheduled more than six months before the general election.

  5. Major broadcast, cable, print, digital and social media outlets may not run any paid ads supporting or opposing Supreme Court nominations. 

  6. Gerrymandering is prohibited by requiring Congressional districts to resemble, as much as possible, simple rectangles and to fairly represent the local political and ethnic diversity. District boundaries should be straight and feature no more than 10 corners. (See below.) A curved boundary may substitute if formed by a coastline, river, lake or a historically established municipal, county or state line. 

Such an amendment would dramatically lower the cost of campaigns; reduce the corrupting influence of big money; provide a realistic chance for more citizen-stewards to run and compete; and give local constituents more electoral influence and voice with their elected representatives.

Any Constitutional Amendment must get two-thirds of the vote in both houses of Congress to go to the states for final ratification. To get these votes, every technique will be used such as lobbying, cajoling, pressuring, horse-trading, and primarying incumbents. (Think the James Spader character in Lincoln.) It will be difficult, but not impossible. But the stakes are also super high. After all, if we can’t beat the rich donor class, then the founding ideals of our democracy are already a relic of the past.

¹ According to

² Senator Tom Daschle (D-SD) & former U.S. Rep. David Jolly (R-FL).

³ Wall Street Journal, June 4, 2019

Anti-Gerrymandering Rule: What do 10 corners look like?

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