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POSTER AND ESSAY CONTEST - 2009 WINNERS

A selection of posters are available below.  All the winning posters are on display at the Secretary of State's Office, 26 Terrace Street, Montpelier.

Grades K-2 Winners
Grades K-2 Honorable Mentions
Grades 3-5 Winners
Grades 3-5 Honorable Mention
Grades 6-8 Essay Co-Winners

 


K-2 Winners

Individual Winner - Benjamin Carpenter (Homeschool in Poultney)

Butterfly in Red Clover

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Class Winner - Clarendon Elementary School, Ms. Jakubowski's 2nd Grade

Monarch Butterflies

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Grades K-2 Honorable Mentions

Individual - Riley Earle, Bridgewater Village School

Vermont State Seal

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Class - Mr. Bender's 2nd grade, Rutland Public School

Hermit Thrushes

 

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Grades 3-5 Posters Contest on a Vermont History Theme:


Grade 3-5 Winners

 

Individual - Emily Ballou, South Royalton School

Calvin Coolidge
 

 

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Class - Ms. Baker's 3rd grade, Waitsfield Elementary School

Scenes from Vermont History

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Grades 3-5 Honorable Mention

Posy LaBombard, Waitsfield Elementary School

Samuel de Champlain

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Grades 6 to 8 Essay

 

        Co-Winners

             Will Adkisson, Browns River Middle School - Athens vs. America

                    Anna Riley-Sheppard, Lamoille Union Middle School -
          Discussing Vermont's Constitution:  Should It Be Easier to Amend?

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Athens vs. America 

When the founding fathers wrote the Constitution, they had a difficult choice to make. Should they have a true democracy, where the people govern directly, or should they have a representative democracy, where the people govern through their elected officials? They chose a representative system. The Vermont Constitution is equally demonstrative of this. Voters cannot directly propose amendments to the state constitution through ballot initiatives, like they can in California and other states. This is a good thing. If Madison or Jefferson had wanted us to be able to have free reign in our own constitutions, he would have written the federal document differently.

In the Vermont Constitution, an amendment may only be proposed by a Congressman every four years. Once proposed, 2/3 of the Senate and a majority of the House must pass it. But even after that, which can be difficult, the amendment isn�t done. It sits for two years, after which it is again voted on by the House and Senate. This time, only a majority must vote for it. Only then is it put to the voters; if a majority of voters approve it, the amendment is adopted. The general public is only part of the voting once the proposed amendment has passed the House and Senate twice. This forces their representatives to propose the amendment, and to vote on it, before the people can even touch it, which is the very backbone of our government � a representative democracy, not a true democracy.[1]

Our founding fathers were adamant that true democracy is ineffective. As Alexander Hamilton said, "A pure democracy if it were practicable would be the most perfect government. Experience has proved that no position is more false than this. The ancient democracies in which the people themselves deliberated never possessed one good feature of government. Their very character was tyranny; their figure deformity...[2]� The group that wrote the Constitution obviously agreed, because the federal document is based on that fundamental principle, from the electoral college to the amendment process. Our government in no way resembles the ancient true democracies.

Athens was the one of the few governments that implemented true democracy. But if their history is examined, they went through constant turmoil, undergoing coups and revolutions every few decades. There was a revolt in 510 BC, a coup in 411 (that was overthrown in 403) and constant warfare. From wars with the Persians to land squabbles with the Spartans, to the eventual overthrow of the city-state by Alexander the Great, Rome, the Byzantine Empire, and the Ottoman Empire, Athens was not a happy place. Interestingly, the word tyrant originated in Greece. As Hamilton says, �The ancient democracies in which the people themselves deliberated never possessed one good feature of government. Their very character was tyranny; their figure deformity.� While Athens is not a tyranny, as such, his point is clear. Athens had a chaotic government. Vermont, with its highly limiting amendment process, does not.

John Witherspoon, a signer of the Declaration of independence, is equally eloquent. "Pure democracy cannot subsist long nor be carried far into the departments of state � it is very subject to caprice and the madness of popular rage.[3]" In summary: the people aren�t qualified to make their own choices. To use a real-world example, I was taking a class in which the students picked a discussion topic � one of a long list of potential apocalypses. Despite the many interesting topics, such as nuclear warfare and the effects of a destroyed moon, the majority of the class went with the joke topics, including the disappearance of chocolate from the world. If that isn�t the madness of popular rage, I don�t know what is.

But shouldn�t the people have a voice? Wasn�t the Revolutionary War fought for liberty and freedom?  Yes, it was. But the founding fathers believed that the people couldn�t govern themselves effectively. I know that I want someone smarter than me running my country. Representative democracy strikes a delicate balance: people don�t govern themselves, but they still have a voice. If the public was meant to truly govern themselves, we would be living in another Athens. We have chosen a representative government � we must stand by it, whether in Vermont or the country as a whole.

So what does all this have to do with the amendment process? The answer: Everything. Our founding fathers decided that a true democracy was ineffective. If we wish to have a successful government, history tells us that we must eschew true democracy. We must stand by representative democracy because that is the foundation our government is based on. We can�t change our minds now, two hundred years later, and say �Sorry, Jefferson � we�ve decided we�d rather be an Athenian democracy.� This applies at the state level as well as at the federal, with the amendment process as well as the legislative branch. If you don�t like it, argue with Madison.


[1] http://www.usconstitution.net/vtconst.html#Section72

[2] http://www.ourrepubliconline.com/OurRepublic/Author/22

[3] http://www.partyof1776.net/p1776/fathers/Witherspoon%20John/quotes/contents.html

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       Discussing Vermont�s Constitution:
            Should It Be Easier To Amend?

                 If one were to ask the average Vermonter if they thought it should be easier to amend the Vermont Constitution, they would most likely reply, �Vermont has a Constitution?�

                I apologetically admit that, just a small while ago, I was one in a crowd of those people. I don�t mean to sound ignorant, but before my eighth grade social studies class began studying Vermont�s Constitution, I had no idea it existed. However, I learned much from my recent studies of it and wonder that it is not discussed more thoroughly in our state�s schools. After all, our very own Green Mountain State�s Constitution is one of the strongest in the country, especially since it was written before the U.S. Constitution and has lasted from 1777 to the present day.

                That being said, let us now turn to the issue of amending the Constitution. Information about the process can be found in Chapter II, Section 72. It tells us, �At the biennial session of the General Assembly of this Senate by a vote of two-thirds of its member, [senators] may propose amendments to this Constitution, with the concurrence of a majority of the members of the House of Representatives with the amendment as proposed by the Senate.�

                How complicated! And according to Deb Markowitz, Secretary of State, �Proposals of amendment can [only] be initiated every four years by the senate,� and the developments that follow can take many more years to complete. Then it becomes even more convoluted. If the idea for the proposal of an amendment passes the two-thirds vote of the Senate, it still must win a majority vote in the House to even be suggested to the public as a proposed amendment! If this prevails, it gets sent back to the Senate and House for another vote, this time on the actual amendment, and can finally be transferred to the Vermont voters as a new amendment to the Constitution. However, if the House and Senate have just one small disagreement about the specifics of the text, the amendment must be amended by a specialized Conference Committee, and the whole process starts again.

                This detail of our Constitution has some Vermonters posing the question, �What happens when we desperately need to pass an amendment in a rapid manner? It would take years for it to pass! Shouldn�t it be easier to amend the Vermont Constitution?�

                Though I see the rationale for speeding up the amendment process, I believe it is satisfactory as is. For one thing, the amending procedure for the Vermont Constitution has been revised just three times. Either this means that the method of amending is so complicated that no one can get their proposals through, or it suggests that the process has simply never needed many changes. I believe the truth lies with the latter. If the Vermont Constitution truly and urgently needed amending, I trust we could find a way to make it happen. Even if this proved impossible we could pass a state law ensuring that the issue was temporarily taken care of, �until the real thing came along�.

Now for a question of history: why did the writers of the Vermont Constitution choose to make such a difficult Constitution to amend? Truly, in comparison to ours, the U.S. Constitution is amazingly easy to revise. There, an amendment can be proposed at any given time by a two-thirds vote of both houses of Congress or by a national convention called at the request of two-thirds of state legislatures.

                If you think this sounds easy, just look at California�s Constitution.  Amendments can be brought up anytime and, if they are voted in for a proposal, the state Legislature must provide a convention to vote on it within six months time. Also, Article 18, Section 4, reads, �A proposed amendment or revision shall be submitted to the electors and if approved by a majority of votes thereon takes effect the day after the election��

                At the other end of the spectrum lies New York. The amendment process of this Constitution is quite strict. Any amendment suggested to and voted on by both the House and the Senate, with a positive outcome, must then be sent to the attorney-general. If the attorney-general approves of the Bill, he then has no more than twenty days to review it and write a letter to the Legislature concerning his opinion on the topic. Assuming this happens, the Bill goes through many more incarnations of the House and Senate before finally being proposed to the people for them to vote on. Now that is what I call tough!

This brings me to my final point: where is the fine line between a law and an actual amendment? Most of the concerns of Vermonters could probably be assuaged by a simple law instead of an entire amendment. States laws can be passed quickly and without trouble and wouldn�t carry the heavy load of an actual amendment. Also, as Marielle Rousseau, the former winner of an essay contest about the Vermont State Constitution, says, �Vermont�s Constitution has been in place for 227 (now 231) years and it has never served us wrong in this period of time. Its complicated process benefits us, as we can see from the fact that the Constitution has rarely needed amending, and if we were to change this process, we would no doubt be harming our law making process.�

 Our Constitution has done a good job taking care of Vermont. I don�t believe it needs many changes, and most alterations Vermonters think of are fixable by creating a law. The long process of amending the Constitution ensures that we don�t make any decisions we will later regret, and that is definitely a good thing.

 

 

 

 

 

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