Texas and Missouri are set to take a major step toward ending a divisive and expensive constitutional amendment fight in the US, as the first two states in the country to allow independent referenda to choose whether to allow voters to elect their own delegates to Congress.
The Texas Independent Electoral College (TIC), a special legislative body that allows for independent elections, will consider the constitutional amendment next week, a move that could lead to more referendoms on issues ranging from taxation to campaign finance.
“If Texas becomes the first state to pass a constitutional amendment that allows citizens to elect representatives to the US Congress, the country is on the cusp of a new era of American democracy,” said Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, a supporter of the amendment.
The TIC, whose first meeting was held on Monday, has not yet made any final decisions on whether to go ahead with the amendment, but the group said it is looking forward to the vote.
“Our goal is to move forward with the TIC’s vote next week and to begin the work of putting the amendment into action,” the Tic said in a statement.
“Our hope is that Texas will become the first US state to allow its citizens to choose representatives to Congress through an independent process,” the group added.
“The Texas Constitution requires that the people elect a representative to represent them in Congress, and this is the most effective way to ensure that.”
The Tic was created by a bipartisan group of legislators in 2015, and its first meeting in June last year came after a year of intense lobbying by Republican legislators and special interests who have been campaigning for years to kill the amendment’s passage.
The amendment, which was put forward by Republican President Donald Trump, would allow voters in Texas and Kansas to elect delegates to the national convention of the US.
If passed, it would also give voters in New York, Illinois, and Florida the right to elect a delegate to the state’s congressional delegation.
In Kansas, state Representative Todd Young, a Republican from the western state, has been pushing for the amendment to be considered by the legislature.
“This amendment is a tool for our country to be the most powerful nation on earth,” he said.
“If we can get it passed in Texas, it will be the only time in the history of our country that we’ll be able to have a national referendum.”
Texas has a long history of independent elections.
In 1842, a majority of voters in the state overwhelmingly chose to let voters choose the electors who would then pick the president.
The next year, more than 70,000 people cast ballots for the electors, who voted for Republican Donald Trumps re-election.
Texas was the first to approve an independent electoral college system in 1870, after a Republican-dominated legislature defeated a popular initiative that would have required electors to be chosen by the state legislature.
In the years since, the Republican-led Texas Legislature has tried to thwart efforts to allow referendals for elections.
Last year, the state tried to stop a measure that would allow independent voters to cast a ballot for a statewide candidate by blocking a ballot initiative on the issue, arguing that the measure would “undermine” state elections law.
A similar measure failed in 2017, and voters in 2018 will have the opportunity to decide whether to ratify a constitutional convention that is set to choose delegates to elect the US president.
In a statement at the time, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said the proposed convention would “end all constitutional restrictions on elections” and “provide the only legitimate basis for a constitutional national election”.
In Missouri, Republican Governor Jay Nixon has proposed that the state constitutional amendment to limit independent voting to those eligible to vote by mail be adopted.
The Missouri legislature is expected to vote on the proposal on Tuesday, according to a news release.
“While we have many of the same interests that Texas and the Missouri legislature are fighting over, there are significant differences between them,” said Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander, a Democrat who is also the state Republican Party chairman.
“We are all very happy to work with our legislators on the T-E proposal, but we have to get it done quickly because we are going to need all the votes we can to pass it.
Missouri is the only state in the nation where a referendum is an option.”
Mr Kander said that the Missouri amendment is not a substitute for the constitution.
“We’re not asking for any special privileges or benefits,” he told the Associated Press.
“The constitution was written for the 21st century, not the past.
It is a good thing to have in place to help us keep our democracy.”
But there is one important thing we can all agree on: there’s no way to have this in our state without the people of Missouri having the opportunity and the right and the power to make their own decisions about the future of our nation.