Democratic 2020 Hopefuls Back Four Policies That Require Constitutional Amendments

REUTERS/Chris Wattie

Virginia Kruta Associate Editor
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Democratic 2020 presidential hopefuls have so far proposed or signaled willingness to discuss at least four major policy ideas that would require the U.S. Constitution to be amended.

  • Lowering the voting age to 16
  • Introducing term limits for Supreme Court justices
  • Dissolving the Electoral College and adopting a National Popular Vote
  • Reintroducing the Equal Rights Amendment

As more and more Democrats enter the rapidly expanding field, each vying for the chance to challenge President Donald Trump’s re-election bid, it is becoming apparent that most of them are looking for ways to change the status quo — even if that means changing the Constitution as well.

Lowering the voting age to 16.

In order for the voting age to be lowered to 16, Congress would have to pass an amendment to an amendment. The 26th Amendment, ratified in 1971, lowered the national voting age from 21 to 18. A new amendment would have to be ratified that would supersede the 26th.

Democratic Sens. Kamala Harris, Cory Booker and Amy Klobuchar have not given this particular policy their full-throated endorsement, but all three have said that they are at least willing to have the conversation. (RELATED: Nancy Pelosi Says She Personally Supports Lowering The Voting Age To 16)

Introducing term limits for Supreme Court justices.

Article III, Section I of the Constitution states that, “The judges, both of the supreme and inferior courts, shall hold their offices during good behaviour …” Unless they are impeached, judicial appointments are for life or until the appointee retires.

But Democratic New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker has suggested that Supreme Court justices should be subject to term limits and that every president should have the opportunity to make three high court appointments during his or her term in office.

Several Democratic candidates, including former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Sen. Kamala Harris and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, have said that they were open to changes on the court. Buttigieg and O’Rourke have voiced support for a new court with 15 justices — five chosen by Democrats, five chosen by Republicans and five chosen by unanimous approval of the other 10 justices.

Dissolving the Electoral College and adopting a National Popular Vote

In order to replace the Electoral College with a National Popular Vote, which would allow the president to be elected directly by the people, an amendment superseding Article II, Section I (clauses 2 and 3), as well as the 12th Amendment, would be necessary.

Democrats have been calling for a move to a popular vote, arguing that it’s the only way to make sure that “every vote counts.” A number of states have already attempted to side-step the Electoral College by opting to give all of their electoral votes to the winner of the nationwide popular vote. Renewed calls came from many in the party after the 2016 presidential election, when former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton won the popular vote, but lost the Electoral College.

Independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who is also seeking the Democratic nomination, called for the change almost immediately following Clinton’s 2016 loss.

Warren planted her flag on this particular issue during a Monday town hall in Mississippi, saying, “Every vote matters.”

O’Rourke and Buttigieg — along with former HUD Secretary Julian Castro — have also voiced support for a move to the popular vote. “We ought to actually be a place where the person who gets the most votes for president gets to win the election,” Buttigieg explained.

Reintroducing the Equal Rights Amendment

The Equal Rights Amendment states that “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.” Proponents argue that it would make it easier to enforce equal pay laws, protect access to abortion and help to protect women from harassment.

The ERA has been around for decades without ever getting enough states on board to ratify it. Ratification of this amendment would be a priority for Harris.

The 2020 primary is just getting underway and at least a few more candidates are expected to declare their intentions in the coming weeks, so this may just be the tip of the iceberg with regard to radical policy proposals and possible changes to the Constitution.

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