During a three day conference in Williamsburg, Virginia (February 16-18, 2002) approximately 90 people came together from all walks of life and all parts of the U.S.A. to begin the campaign for The National Initiative for Democracy, or NI4D.

Led by former U.S. Senator Mike Gravel (D-Alaska, 1968-81), this group heard legal experts, political experts, social scientists and community activists discuss the feasibility of starting the process of amending the U.S. constitution to include a sophisticated and innovative citizens initiative process via what James Madison called "first principles."

Also known as "popular sovereignty," the idea behind this movement is to avoid resorting to the explicit Article V ways of amending the U.S. Constitution, which would be an exercise in futility.  Everyone at the conference agreed that there is no way that Congress and state legislators would amend the constitution to let citizens vote on laws directly.

Thus, the only other way is to put such an amendment to the American people themselves for them to enact such an amendment directly.  This would be accomplished by getting 50% of voters in the last presidential election to sign a petition enacting "The Democracy Amendment."

Is this legal?  According to a panel of legal experts from law schools such as Harvard, Yale, Northwestern, Georgetown and Valparaiso....it's arguable.  The constitution is ambiguous enough to permit this as a method of enacting an amendment. 

In addition, they pointed out that the founding fathers of the U.S. Constitution went around the explicit requirements of the Articles of Confederation in both drafting and ratifying the new national government by letting the American people themselves decide whether the new government was to their liking. 



Thus,  The Democracy Amendment process, in its own way of changing the national government to be more democratic in nature, would be using the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787 as a precedent for using popular sovereignty to America's central government.

Political experts added that the fundamental American constitutional philosophy is that all constitutional power derives directly from the American people.

Thus, there is no way political way to block the American people themselves from amending the U.S. Constitution as they see fit.  NI4D's goal is to get over 50 million signatures of registered voters to do just that.  How the courts handle that afterwards will be interesting, to say the least.

In addition, a good deal of time was spent in discussing The Democracy Act, which contains the details of the somewhat complicated process that would be used to pass citizens initiatives at the national level.  This process is designed to solve any number of problems that have become obvious through the extensive use of citizens initiatives in the United States at the state and local levels. 

So, The Democracy Act includes ways to keep the process from being overwhelmed by special interests and to ensure that the public forms an educated and deliberated opinion on each issue presented to them. The Act also establishes a new government independent agency called The Electoral Trust that would administer the Act.

For greater detail on this conference and the Democracy Amendment and Democracy Act, and to join in the NI4D movement, see www.ni4d.org.


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