Article V of the Constitution, Explained

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The United States Senate favors states with small populations. Wyoming has half a million people and California has 40 million people, but they both get exactly two senators each.

I assume we all know this, right? And we know how unfair it is. And how much it favors Republicans. And how it’s intolerable and we should change it. And how it’s the root of all evil at this moment in history. Etc. This is pretty much all true, but before anybody says anything more, I’d like to introduce you all to Article V of the US Constitution:

The Congress, whenever two thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose Amendments to this Constitution…..

Article V is about amending the Constitution. You all know how that’s done, so let’s skip ahead to the final sentence:

Provided that no Amendment which may be made prior to the Year One thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any Manner affect the first and fourth Clauses in the Ninth Section of the first Article; and that no State, without its Consent, shall be deprived of its equal Suffrage in the Senate.

See that? It means that you can’t amend the Constitution to change the Senate. Every state gets the same number of votes. Period. Even if you fancifully assume that there’s some way of getting a whole bunch of states to agree to reduce their own power via constitutional amendment, it doesn’t matter. There’s no way to alter Senate representation without calling a constitutional convention and literally writing a whole new constitution.

So can we please all stop yammering about this? It’s unfair and intolerable and its roots are offensive and blah blah blah. But it doesn’t matter. There’s nothing you can do to change it. If you want to yammer about something useful, how about coming up with ways for progressives to do a better job of winning votes in small states?

DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

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In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America will move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

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DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America will move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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