Monday’s Historical Image
Happy Constitution Day!
On this day, 225 years ago, the Constitution was signed by 39 men in Philadelphia, the first step on its path to ratification. The convention itself had convened on May 25 in Independence Hall, shown in the above World War I-era propaganda poster. So by the time the Convention delegates signed the document in September, many of them had spent more than three months debating the structure of the new American government. They spent a lot of time complaining about the hot weather, too.
For our purposes today, it’s probably worth noting that they created a system of government where: only one federal office was elected via popular vote (Representatives); the President was elected by the Electoral College; and where the right to vote was not guaranteed.
Although the Constitution granted Congress the power to regulate federal elections, it generally left the administration of all elections to the states. In consequence, today we have almost 13,000 election administration districts and the rules governing elections are wildly diverse. Polling hours vary from state to state; ballot design is random and often amateurish; voter registration rules are inconsistent…well the list goes on.
There have been some notable efforts by the federal government to impose some base level uniformity on our voting systems: the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the National Voter Registration Act (1993) and the Help America Vote Act (2002). But by and large, voting systems are not subject to any national quality standards. You may be better guaranteed that your eggs will be safe to eat than you are that your democracy will work.
The National Constitution Center has some nice resources for people who want to celebrate Constitution Day. Oddly, no party hats for sale on the site though.
Image Source: Library of Congress