U.S. Senator Bill Nelson (D-Florida) recently introduced SJR 39, which would provide for the direct election of the president. The wording is now available. It reads, “Sec. 1. The President and Vice President shall be jointly elected by the direct vote of the qualified electors of the several States and territories and the District constituting the seat of Government of the United States. The electors in each State, territory, and the District constituting the seat of Government of the United States shall have the qualifications requisite for electors of the most numerous branch of the legislative body where they reside.
Section 2. Congress may determine the time, place and manner of holding the election, the entitlement to inclusion on the ballot, and the manner in which the results of the election shall be ascertained and declared.”
If this amendment were passed, the ballot access laws for president would be in the hands of Congress. The United States and Switzerland are now the only nations in the world in which the election laws for national elections are not written by the national government.
Congress has written a ballot access for presidential elections once. Congress had to write such a law for the District of Columbia, after the 23rd Amendment was passed giving D.C. its own presidential electors. The original law, passed in 1961, provided for a petition of 5% of the number of registered voters in the District. No one even tried to use it until 1972, when both the Socialist Workers Party, and the Communist Party, tried to use it to get on the D.C. ballot for president. The petition that year required 13,319 signatures. Both parties submitted more signatures than the minimum, but the D.C. Board of Elections rejected both petitions for not having enough valid signatures. Both parties sued, arguing that they did have enough signatures. Neither party won its lawsuit. However, this prompted the Board to ask Congress to lower the requirement, to avoid the hassle. Congress obliged, lowering it to 1% of the number of registered voters in 1973. That law still stands. Nowadays the D.C. City Council has the authority to pass its own election laws, subject to veto by Congress.
The Nelson Amendment would grant U.S. citizens a vote for president, if they live in Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, American Samoa, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. However, most residents of American Samoa are not U.S. citizens, just U.S. nationals. Thanks to Thomas Jones.