A constitutional question

We are a federal republic: whatever the feds do not cover, goes to the states, then to the counties…
So, the states may have any legialatures? They seem all be copied on the federal model. The states elect their legislatures as they want. US Congress and the president are federal categories. Why each state obeys e.g., federal rules in communications but elect the feds whichever way they want? I mean by using voting machines, different ballots, etc. Even different counties do it differenly, then they count or recount votes differently. Is it constitutional? Do we need a ferorm?

The Constitution doesn’t say much about voting except for explicately granting various people the right to vote. Originally, the state governments each had their own procedure for choosing the electors that would be sent to vote for President. It wasn’t until later that states decided to choose their electors by popular vote. Thus, voting remains a largely state-run institution. Though I am usually an ardent “let the states do their thing” guy, I can see advantages to a federalized election beareau.

The states can’t have just any type of legislature. The Constitution does state that they have to have a republican form of government.

The Supreme Court in the 1960s required that all the legislatures be apportioned on the basis of “one man, one vote”.

Bob, I meant: do they (the states) have to have two houses, and then one with statewide (senate), one with proportional representation? A one-house or three-house parliament is still a republic. Wouldn’t a uniform election system for the federal congress and the president be fairer, or, given this year election, less controvercial?

No, they don’t. Virginia and (I think) one other state have single house legislatures. You’re right that “republic” does not specify how many houses the legislature may have.I think many states chose to adopt a similar model because it’s the most fair.

Nebraska. It’s called unicameral government, BTW.

And, I’m pretty sure Virginia has two Houses, making Nebraska the sole unicameral state.

A “republic” is really just a “representative democracy,” meaning that the icky business of legislature is assigned to representatives of the general public, who elect the representatives. A “democracy” refers to a pure democracy, which would be an absolute disaster in the US (and any not-small organization), as every single piece of legislation would be open to popular vote.

Until the 1960s, most states configured the upper house of their legislature like it was the US Senate, but such a practice was declared unconstitutional by the Warren Court (I can’t remember the name of the decision now.)

Nebraska is indeed the only state with a unicameral legislature.

California has a bicameral legislature, but sometimes I wonder why. The Assembly has 80 seats, with the members elected from “assembly districts.” The Senate has 40 seats, with the members elected from “senate districts.”

Despite the similar names, this seems hardly along the lines of the US Congress. They’re functionally the same; the only difference is that senators represent a district that’s twice as big as an Assembly member’s.

This has been bugging me for a while, and I’m seriously interested in hearing why it’s done this way.

Hmm… BobT may have partially answered my question as I was asking it. :slight_smile:

In California, the Senate districts are made up of two Assembly districts. Senate district #1 contains Assembly districts #1 and 2.

I don’t believe it’s always been that way however, but that has been the process here since at least the last reapportionment.

Virginian checking in here. We do indeed have a bicameral legislature. I myself am in the 30th Senate and 39th House districts.

Somehow nobody answered my main question:<<Wouldn’t a uniform election system for the federal congress and the president be fairer, or, given this year election, less controvercial?>>Do we need a reform?

Well, the biggest practical problem is that, contrary to popular belief, elections happen every year. (Sorry, a bit snippy this morning). Most of the elections are for local/state office, so adding a separate system for federal elections would be just adding an unnecessary and expensive layer of federal bureaucracy.

As for this election, I don’t think we really have a problem with the system itself. Sure, this election will be an impetus to pushing election technology out of the 60’s, but the states can do that as well. The “controversy” is simply a close election, combined with a lack of leadership and dignity by both candidates. Sadly, the deficiencies in the candidates’ character is not going to be fixed by a uniform election system.


The one man one vote decision in the 1960s had some interesting implications here in Ohio. In 1972, I believe it was, it was decided that the House would have 99 members and the Senate would have 33; districts would be apportioned every 10 years depending on changes in population. One of the problems that this caused was that prior to 1972 the number of Senators and Representatives could fluctuate from one General Assembly to the next. When the state went to a 99-member House and a 33-member Senate, there had been 138 Representatives and 46 Senators (I think my figures are correct, but I’m not entirely sure). Needless to say, there were quite a few disappointed incumbents. Those who were not reelected were simply dismissed.

To answer a couple of your questions/comments.
The way the constitution was set up,it was to give the Federal Goverment only specific powers. Instead of whatever the Federal Goverment doesn’t do the Staes pick up; it was meant to be the States giving specific powers to the Federal Government.
It’s not that the States follow the Fedeal bi-cameral model it’s that the Federal Government model (from the Connecticut Compromise)was based on a combination of that used in various of the 13 colonies and in England at the time.(House of Lords/Commons)
Article II of the constitution leaves the method of choosing Presidential Electors up to each individual State’s Legislature to decide.

Any reform would need to be in the form of a constitutional amendment. I wouldn’t count on that happening any time soon.