Thursday, October 20, 2011

Constitution Class in Temecula - Amendments 18 through 23

The following is a short summary of tonight's topics (we meet at 6:00 pm):

Amendments 18 and 21, Prohibition:

Amendment 18 was ratified January 16, 1919, bringing the prohibition of alcohol to America. The amendment was repealed by Amendment 21, December 5, 1933.

Christian churches worked to bring about prohibition as far back as the 1840s. Through the use of pressure-politics the goal of nationwide prohibition was achieved during World War I with the ratification of the Eighteenth Amendment.

Congress passed the "Volstead Act" on October 28, 1919, to enforce the law, but most large cities refused to enforce the legislation. As the federal government went after bootleggers, it became quickly apparent that the understaffed agencies were fighting a losing battle. Meanwhile, though there was a slight decline in alcohol consumption around the nation, organized crime increased in the larger cities. Alcohol became a high demand cash crop that the criminal element could not resist.

As Prohibition became increasingly unpopular, the perceived need for tax revenue during the Great Depression encouraged a repeal movement. The hope for tax revenue, and weakening organized crime, led to the Twenty-First Amendment, which repealed the amendment that had brought Prohibition to America. The repeal returned the legalities of alcohol to the States. Though Prohibition was over nationwide, some counties remained "dry counties," forbidding the sale of alcoholic beverages.


The Nineteenth Amendment is the Amendment that established uniform voting rights for women. It was ratified on August 18, 1920.

The Constitution gives the States the right to determine its own rules for elections. Though a few states and territories allowed women to vote prior to the Nineteenth Amendment, for the most part women were not allowed to vote around the nation. The women's suffrage movement worked to bring about an amendment that would give women voting rights nationwide. The amendment was first proposed in 1878, and it took forty-one years before it was submitted to the States for ratification. It took about a year to receive enough votes for ratification.

A challenge to the Nineteenth Amendment (Leser v. Garnett, 1922) claimed that the amendment was unconstitutionally adopted, and that the rules for elections was implicitly delegated to the individual states because of the need to preserve state sovereignty. However, the very fact that the change in voting rules was through amendment made the argument against the Nineteenth Amendment a moot point.

After the Nineteenth Amendment was ratified, with this new power, women were able to attempt to elect those who shared their beliefs, hoping that other measures that would push forward the fight for women's rights would also emerge.

After the Nineteenth Amendment passed, the percentage of women in the workforce increased to about 25 percent. Though discrimination continued, and women rarely held decision-making positions, it was definitely a step in the right direction.

During World War II, women were needed in all areas since many of the men went overseas to fight. The percentage of women in the workforce increased to 36 percent. The boom for women was short-lived, however. When the war ended, and the soldiers returned home, 2 million women were fired within 15 months after the end of the war to make room for the men.

Despite such setbacks, by the 1980s, the percentage of women in the workforce exceeded 50 percent. However, the percentage of women voting has not equaled the original push shortly after the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment.

Question for discussion: the States and territories that allowed women to vote were in the frontier. Why do you suppose that was the reality?


Amendment 20, Election Rules

Ratified in 1933, the Twentieth Amendment establishes the beginning and end of the terms of the elected federal offices.

The amendment moved the beginning of the Presidential, Vice Presidential and Congressional terms from March 4. Congress would convene on the third day of January, reducing the amount of time a lame duck Congress would be in session. The terms of the President and Vice President were moved to the 20th day of January.

Also, another key point as a result of this amendment, is that if the Electoral College fails to resolve who will be the President or Vice President, the newly elected Congress, as opposed to the outgoing one, would choose who would occupy the unresolved office or offices.


Amendment 22, Presidential Term Limit

The Twenty-Second Amendment was passed in 1951. It was designed to ensure no president could seek a third term. Though the Constitution did not limit the number of terms a president could serve prior to this amendment, many consider the fact that George Washington choosing not to seek a third term as evidence that the Founding Fathers saw two-terms as the expected standard.

James Madison and James Monroe also adhered to the two-term principle. Few Presidents sought a third term, and no President achieved it, until Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1940 became the only president to be elected to a third term. World War to has often been cited as the reason. In 1944, while World War II continued to rage, Roosevelt won a fourth term. He died before he could complete that term.


Amendment 23, Washington DC Electoral Votes

The Twenty-Third Amendment allows the citizens in Washington DC to vote for Electors for President and Vice President. The amendment was ratified in 1961.

Washington DC, prior to this amendment, was literally being taxed without representation. However, one must consider that Washington DC was not supposed to have a population in the first place. The District of Columbia was intended to only be the seat of government.

Since Washington DC is not a State, the district is still unable to send voting Representatives or Senators to Congress.

The amendment restricts the district to the number of Electors of the least populous state, irrespective of its own population. That number is currently three.


Special Thanks to: Faith Armory, 27498 Enterprise Cir. W #2, Temecula, CA 92562; 951-699-7500, - For providing us with a classroom to meet in.

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