Honorable Mention:

Samantha Grise
Mater Christi School,
Burlington, VT

Article 20, Chapter I of the Vermont Constitution gives Vermonters the right to "instruct their Representatives."  Section 16 of Chapter II of the Constitution requires Representatives to use the "best of [their] judgment and ability" in acting as "guardian[s] of the people."  If you were a member of the Vermont House of Representatives and in your judgment a bill would benefit Vermont, but your constituents opposed it, how would you vote, and why?

Representatives vs. Constituents
Samantha Grise

            Article 20, chapter 1 of the Vermont Constitution state that Vermonters are entitled to “instruct their Representatives” Section 16 of chapter 2 states that Representatives have to use the “best of their judgment and ability” as the “guardians of the people.”

            Representatives have a difficult job when it comes to the welfare of their state.  It is very easy to find yourself with a differing opinion to that of your constituents and this differing opinion could harm your career as a representative.  So what would you do; possibly stay in office for a few years or do the right thing and vote for what would be the best for your state, or at least what you think would be the best.

            The Vermont constitution that exists today is the constitution of 1793, one of the few constitutions written before the 1800’s.  Our constitution consists of 2 chapters, The Bill of Rights and the frame of the government.  The Vermont constitution is used to help regulate Vermonter’s rights and limitations.

            In the case that I ever found myself in office at the position of representative and my constituents opposed a bill I thought reasonable I would vote for it.  If the bill helped my constituents or another group of people I would be all for it, ensuring that the bill was used in a way that it would benefit someone in a positive effective way and not in a way that would adversely effect anyone to the extreme.  Though this would all truly depend on the issue in comparison to the environment where it was planned to affect.

            Consider this example; a bill is proposed that would enable a dam to be placed in a local water way.  This dam would create electricity to power and advancing society and create more jobs for an expanding community; what would you do?

            If you would back up this bill think about the other side, native habitats would be changed and for better or worse who knows? Salmon or other fish with unique breeding habits that require the navigating of waterways such as the one proposed in this bill would be hindered with the fact that they wouldn’t be able to.  This dilemma could go further than fish; without the fish some carnivores would lose a food source and obviously they would have to finish another…etcetera.  What would be worth more the expansion a community or the life of an animal?  How representatives face issues and how they are handled can make all difference.

            Article 20 chapter I, and section 16 of chapter II do not help with “Representative vs. Constituent” situations.  Since they give equal power to both the representative and the constituents, which opens a window to conflict, but how would someone amend the constitution?  What would they change in such a way that the changes would not tip the scale of power to far to one side or the other.  First off, I would probably keep section 16, chapter II the same because a Representative should always use the “best of their judgment and ability”.  As for Article 20, chapter one I would probably change it to something around the line of …the constituents are entitled to give their guidance to their elected representative this way and that like a puppet on strings.  I would also try to set up a power system so that if say ¾ percent of the constituent population were against their Representatives chosen path they’d be able to hold a public assembly to discuss this issue and “instruct” their representative.  This simple idea could help to diminish difficulties between representatives and their constituents.  Samatha Grise, 3/11/05