Rhode Island Constitutional Convention, Question 3 (2014)

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Question 3
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Type:Automatic ballot referral
Constitution:Rhode Island Constitution
Topic:Constitutional convention
Status:Defeated Defeatedd
2014 measures
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November 4
Question 1 Defeatedd
Question 2 Approveda
Question 3 Defeatedd
Question 4 Approveda
Question 5 Approveda
Question 6 Approveda
Question 7 Approveda
A Rhode Island Constitutional Convention, Question 3 was on the November 4, 2014 ballot in Rhode Island as an automatic ballot referral, where it was defeated.[1]

Had the measure been approved, another election would have been held to select delegates to the convention. These delegates would then have had the power to propose specific changes to the Rhode Island Constitution.[2] The state constitution, at the time of Question 3's defeat, mandated that one delegate from each of the state's 75 representative districts be selected to attend the convention. Members of the general assembly would have been tasked with enacting legislation to determine the method of electing of delegates, setting forth an election schedule and appropriating funds.[3][4]

Election results

Below are the official, certified election results:

 Rhode Island Question 3
Defeatedd No164,20255.1%
Yes 133,862 44.9%

Election results via: Rhode Island Board of Elections

Text of measure

Ballot title

The official ballot text appeared as follows:[4]

Rhode Island Question 3 2014 ballot title.png[5]

Potential fiscal impact

The state did not officially publish a fiscal impact statement, other than stating,"The referendum would not authorize any borrowing." However, the supporting group, Renew RI, released the following information regarding the potential costs of holding a constitutional convention:[3]

If voters approve a convention, the General Assembly would set its budget. Calculating for inflation from the cost of $891 thousand for the 1986 convention, that cost would be approximately $1.9 million in today’s dollars in a state budget of $8.8 billion per year, a one-time expense of roughly $1.80 for each Rhode Islander. By contrast the General Assembly appropriated $38 million on its own operations for the fiscal year that began on July 1, approximately $36 per person.[5]

Renew RI


The 1973 constitutional convention proposed an amendment to Article XIV, Section 2 of the Rhode Island Constitution, which was ultimately approved by voters. The amendment mandated that voters must be asked at least every 10 years whether a constitutional convention should be called to amend the state's constitution.[6] According to the supporting group, Renew RI, "The convention is a process established in the Rhode Island Constitution to bypass the General Assembly when voters think it has failed to address important issues. Delegates are elected for a single duty—to consider possible amendments to the Constitution. Delegates are not paid but have lawyers and staff to help them draft sound constitutional language."[3] If a constitutional convention is held, delegates can do the following:[4]

  • Propose an entirely new constitution for adoption or rejection by the state's electors
  • Propose individual amendments to the constitution
  • Re-write the basic document while presenting what appears to be the most controversial issues to the electors in the form of supplemental amendments, thus allowing individual decisions on each

No amendments or revisions to the constitution can take effect without first being approved by a majority vote of the people. The last convention in Rhode Island was held in 1986. In 2004, voters rejected Question 2 - which asked whether a constitutional convention should be held - by a margin of 52 to 48 percent.[2][4]



The group advocating for a "yes" vote on Question 3 was Renew RI.[3]



  • Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity[7]


The following individuals were members of Renew RI:[3]

  • Jan Bergandy - Board Member, RI Association of School Committees
  • Beverly Clay - Citizen Activist
  • William Clay - Citizen Activist
  • Patrick T. Conley - Author of Article XIV (the convention article); co-author of The Rhode Island Constitution: A Reference Guide; attorney; professor; Historian Laureate of Rhode Island; President of the Rhode Island Heritage Hall of Fame.
  • Timothy Duffy - Executive Director, RI Association of School Committees
  • Liana Ferreira Fenton - Executive Board Member, RI Association of School Committees
  • Lawrence J. Fitzmorris - Interim Chairman, RI Taxpayers Association, President, Portsmouth Concerned Citizens
  • Robert G. Flanders, Jr., Esq. - Partner, Hinckley, Allen & Snyder LLP, Former Associate Justice, RI Supreme Court, Chair, Board of Regents for Elementary and Secondary Education, Central Falls Receiver, co-author, The Rhode Island State Constitution, A Reference Guide
  • Jo Eva Gaines - RI Board of Education, Vice-Chair Newport School Committee
  • Lawrence Girouard - President, RI Taxpayers Association
  • Alan G. Hassenfeld - Chairman, Hassenfeld Family Initiatives, Inc., former Chief Executive, Hasbro, Inc.
  • Margaret Kane - President, Operation Clean Government
  • Timothy Murphy, MD - Medical Director, Vascular Disease Research Center, Brown University
  • Stephen Robinson, Esq. - Partner, Robinson & Clapham, Education Reform Advocate
  • Sandy Riojas - Vice President, Operation Clean Government
  • Randall Rose - Citizen activist
  • Gary Sasse - Founding Director, Hassenfeld Institute for Public Leadership, Bryant University, former Director of the Departments of Administration & Revenue, State of RI, former Executive Director, RIPEC
  • Barry Schiller - Board Member, Operation Clean Government
  • James Courtney Segovis, Ph.D. - Professor of Management, Bryant University, William M. Davies, Jr. Career and Technical High School Board of Trustees
  • Mike Stenhouse
  • H. Philip West, Jr. - Author, Secrets and Scandals: Reforming Rhode Island, 1986-2006, former Executive Director, Common Cause RI
  • John Hazen White, Jr. - President & CEO, Taco, Inc.
  • Samuel D. Zurier, Esq. - Member, Providence City Council


Arguments in support of Question 3 included:

  • The constitution needed an update, and a constitutional convention was the means to accomplish that.[3]
  • Convening a constitutional convention would have been an indispensable right to restoring confidence in our democratic institutions, protecting basic rights and ensuring fairer, more accountable and effective government in Rhode Island.[3]

Campaign contributions

Total campaign cash Campaign Finance Ballotpedia.png
as of November 4, 2014
Category:Ballot measure endorsements Support: $56,500
Circle thumbs down.png Opposition: $151,800

As of November 3, 2014, one campaign organization supporting Question 3 had received an aggregate total of $56,500 in contributions.[8]

PAC info:

PAC/Ballot measure group Amount raised Amount spent
Renew RI $56,500 $70,441
Total $56,500 $70,441

Top contributors:

Donor Amount
John Hazen White $38,000
Alan Hassenfeld $12,500
Aram Barabedian $5,000


The groups Reject Question 3 and Citizens for Responsible Government advocated for a "no" vote on the measure.[9]



The following groups and organizations were opposed to Question 3:[9]

  • American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME)
  • Bachelor of Social Work Organization – Rhode Island College Chapter
  • Bricklayers & Allied Craftworkers Local #3 Rhode Island
  • Central Falls Teachers Union
  • Construction and General Laborers’ Local Union 271
  • Fuerza Laboral
  • The Green Party of Rhode Island
  • Humanists of RI
  • International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Local #23
  • International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental & Reinforcing Iron Workers Union Local #37
  • International Association of Heat & Frost Insulators and Asbestos Workers Union Local #6
  • International Brotherhood of Boilermakers Local Union #29
  • International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local Union #99
  • International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers Local 400
  • International Union of Elevator Constructors Local #39
  • International Union of Painters and Allied Trades Locals 1333 & 195
  • Jobs With Justice
  • NAACP Providence Branch
  • National Association of Letter Carriers
  • National Coalition of 100 Black Women – RI Chapter
  • National Council of Jewish Women RI
  • Open Doors
  • Planned Parenthood Southern New England
  • Plasters’ & Cement Masons’ Local 40
  • Plumbers, Pipefitters, Refrigeration Local Union 51
  • Protect Families First
  • Providence Central Labor Council
  • PrYSM
  • RI Alliance for Retired Americans
  • RI Association for Justice
  • RI Building and Trades Council
  • RI Commission for Human Rights
  • RI Carpenters Union Local 94
  • RI Commission on Occupational Safety and Health
  • RI Laborers’ District Council
  • RI Economic Progress Institute
  • RI Federation of Teachers and Health Professionals
  • RI National Association of Social Workers
  • RI NOW
  • RI Pride
  • RI Progressive Democrats
  • Roofers & Waterproofers Union Local 33
  • Secular Coalition for Rhode Island
  • SEIU 1199
  • SEIU 32BJ
  • Sheet Metal Workers RI Local #17
  • UA Local Union 669 Sprinkler Fitters and Apprentices
  • UAW Local 7770
  • UFCW Local 328
  • United Nurses and Allied Professionals
  • USW Local 16031
  • UWUA Local 310
  • Warwick Teachers Union Local 915
  • Women’s Health and Education Fund
  • Youth Pride, Inc.


According to Reject Question 3, the following were reasons people should vote against the measure:[9]

  • We Must Protect Our Civil Rights – Approval of a constitutional convention is a significant potential threat to our civil rights. Across the country some of the most controversial, complex and divisive social issues – like affirmative action, gay rights, reproductive rights, voting rights, and the rights of immigrants – often become fodder for expensive statewide voter campaigns.
  • Our Constitution is Not For Sale – The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that there can be no government limits on how much money corporations spend on referenda campaigns, including any proposed constitutional amendments that come out of a convention. We now live in a world of unfettered special interest spending out-of-state money that distorts campaigns.
  • We Already Have Effective Means of Changing Governance – Rhode Island does not need a constitutional convention to change our governance. Constitutional changes may be done, and have been done in the past, by questions placed on the ballot by the General Assembly.
  • Our Money Is Better Spent Elsewhere – Constitutional Conventions are expensive. The 2004 bi-partisan preparatory commission estimated the cost to be about $2 million. That estimate will surely rise when new estimates are prepared for a convention ten years later. Funding programs and services is a better use of money.[5]

Reject Question 3

Campaign contributions

As of November 4, 2014, one campaign organization opposing Question 3 had received an aggregate total of $151,800 in contributions.[8]

PAC info:

PAC/Ballot measure group Amount raised Amount spent
Citizens for Responsible Government $151,800 $137,576
Total $151,800 $137,576

Top contributors:

Donor Amount
RIFTHP Solidarity Fund $15,000
AFSCME AFL-CIO People PAC $10,000
NEA PAC for Education $10,000
New England Laborers Management Trust $10,000
Planned Parenthood S. New England, Inc. $10,000
RI ACLU $10,000
RI AFL-CIO $10,000
Rhode Island Association for Justices $10,000
United Nurses and Allied Professionals $10,000

Media editorial positions

See also: Endorsements of Rhode Island ballot measures, 2014


  • The Westerly Sun said,
We join in urging a yes vote for a convention and urge supporters to get to work. It will be a tough fight against entrenched politicians and bureaucrats.[5]

Westerly Sun[10]

  • The Providence Journal said,
If Rhode Island ever needed change, it needs it now. Many fresh and pragmatic ideas that could help the state better govern itself have been bottled up in the General Assembly. That is why we enthusiastically urge Rhode Islanders to vote yes on Question 3.[5]

Providence Journal[11]

Reports and analyses


The Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity published a report advocating for a constitutional convention, explaining why voters were likely to vote in favor of the convention and detailing what the general assembly could do to avoid an "insider politics as usual situation" if the measure had been approved. The report included the following reasons as to why voters were likely to approve Question 3:[12]

  • Dismal economic outlook. Voters understand that Rhode Island has regressed into an even worse economic and jobs condition than where it stood in 2004 and that our state is even less competitive when it comes to attracting and retaining families and businesses. (Our Center's 2014 Report Card on RI's Competitiveness confirms that sentiment.)
  • Little faith in government-led reform. Voters also seem to have lost faith in the traditional legislative and political processes to amend this situation on their own. Persistent secret insider deals have not only harmed the state's economy, but also diminished voter confidence that their government is one that is geared to work for all Rhode Islanders. A ConCon is the most significant (if not the only) way to effect much-needed reform.
  • Grassroots advocacy. Good-government groups are more numerous and better organized in the state, most of them having already signaled that they will aggressively support this ballot measure and will openly advocate for voters to vote "Yes" on the ballot question.
  • Public polling. In January 2013, a Public Policy Polling survey found that 40% of Rhode Islanders supported holding a constitutional convention, while only 25% opposed.

—Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity

The full report can be read here.


See also: Polls, 2014 ballot measures

In January 2013, Public Policy Polling conducted a poll in Rhode Island addressing a constitutional convention. The question asked of voters was:[13]

Rhode Islanders will vote next year on whether to hold a constitutional convention. Do you support or oppose holding a constitutional convention?[5]

—Public Policy Polling

Rhode Island Question 3 (2014)
Poll Support OpposeUndecidedMargin of ErrorSample Size
Public Policy Polling
1/28/2013 - 1/30/2013
Note: The polls above may not reflect all polls that have been conducted in this race. Those displayed are a random sampling chosen by Ballotpedia staff. If you would like to nominate another poll for inclusion in the table, send an email to editor@ballotpedia.org.

Path to the ballot

Rhode Island Constitution
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See also: Automatic ballot referrals in Rhode Island

Every 10 years, a constitutional convention question is automatically referred to the statewide ballot in Rhode Island. The last constitutional convention question appeared on the ballot in 2004. Rhode Island has a unique provision about elections on the constitutional convention question. It is, "Prior to a vote by the qualified electors on the holding of a convention, the general assembly, or the governor if the general assembly fails to act, shall provide for a bi-partisan preparatory commission to assemble information on constitutional questions for the electors." This means that before the vote is held, a preparatory commission must be created to do some groundwork for a convention, if the state's voters choose to hold one, which they did not.

Related measures

See also

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External links

Basic information