Maryland Constitutional Convention Question, Question 1 (2010)
The Maryland State Senate Rules Committee approved the ballot measure after being told by Dan Friedman, an assistant Attorney General of Maryland, that they were legally required to vote in favor of placing the measure on the ballot: "My legal advice is very simple. It is your constitutional obligation to pass this bill. You don't have a choice."
Maryland voters said "no" to the idea of calling a constitutional convention in 1990 and 1970. In 1930 and 1950, voters said "yes", but Maryland's state legislators declined to call the requested convention on the assertion that the vote required a double majority to pass, not just a simple majority.
Marylanders had previously held a state constitutional convention in 1967, after the U.S. Supreme Court said that the way Maryland's legislative district boundaries were drawn was unconstitutional. Maryland's voters approved the convention itself, but rejected the proposals for constitutional change that emerged from that convention.
With most precincts reporting in the state, the measure's results showed 55 percent of voters in favor, with well over 1.5 million voting on the question. However, the measure did not pass. The measure, according to the state constitution, needed to have the approval of those who turned in an election ballot for the position of Governor and not just the majority of those who simply voted on the measure. Reports stated that the proposal fell short and a constitutional convention would not be held. Only 48% voters who voted for the position of Governor voted 'yes' on the question, essentially voting down the measure, according to preliminary figures from the Maryland State Board of Elections.
J.H. Snider, president of iSolon.org, and who also wrote for the MarylandConCon.org blog, wrote an op-ed for The Washington Post urging the constitutional convention to be held, in his opinion, due to the results of the measure. The op-ed, entitled, "Give Marylanders the constitutional convention they voted for", argued that Governor of Maryland Martin O'Malley and state lawmakers should have held a constitutional convention, citing O'Malley's response to a pre-election question that asked him if he supported such a convention. The response by O'Malley, according to the op-ed, was, "If that's what people want to do, then that's what we should do." Snider pointed out that the 'yes' votes outnumbered the 'no' votes, and that the voters indeed did vote for a convention. Snider highlighted a rule in the Maryland Constitution that essentially counts "blank votes" as 'no' votes for a con-con, "This undemocratic rule exists because incumbent legislators from both parties hate con-cons, which serve as a check on their power. As George Mason, one of the delegates to the 1787 U.S. con-con, put it in arguing for a con-con mechanism for amending the Constitution: 'It would be improper to require the consent of the [legislature], because they may abuse their power and refuse their consent on that very account.'"
- See also: 2010 ballot measure election results
Note: For Question 1 to be approved, it required a double majority, or the approval of all of those who voted in the election (not just those who voted on Question 1). Only 48% those who turned in such ballots voted for the measure, essentially defeating the measure.
Official results of the measure follow:
|Question 1 (Con Con)|
Results via Maryland State Board of Elections
Text of measure
The ballot language that voters saw on their ballot read:
Should a constitutional convention be called for the purpose of changing the Maryland Constitution?
Under Article XIV, Section 2 of the Maryland Constitution the General Assembly is required to ask the voters every 20 years whether a constitutional convention should be called for the purpose of altering the Maryland Constitution.
For a Constitutional Convention
Against a Constitutional Convention
- It shall be the duty of the General Assembly to provide by Law for taking, at the general election to be held in the year nineteen hundred and seventy, and every twenty years thereafter, the sense of the People in regard to calling a Convention for altering this Constitution; and if a majority of voters at such election or elections shall vote for a Convention, the General Assembly, at its next session, shall provide by Law for the assembling of such convention, and for the election of Delegates thereto. Each County, and Legislative District of the City of Baltimore, shall have in such Convention a number of Delegates equal to its representation in both Houses at the time at which the Convention is called. But any Constitution, or change, or amendment of the existing Constitution, which may be adopted by such Convention, shall be submitted to the voters of this State, and shall have no effect unless the same shall have been adopted by a majority of the voters voting thereon.
Details of state constitution
The details of the Maryland Constitution follow:
- Ratified by the people of the state on September 18, 1867, replacing the short-lived Constitution of 1864.
- The state's current constitution is the fourth constitution under which the state has been governed.
- Last amended in 2006.
- At approximately 47,000 words (including annotations), the Maryland Constitution is much longer than the average length of a state constitution in the United States, which is about 26,000 words (the United States Constitution is about 8,700 words long).
- Governor of Maryland Martin O'Malley and former Governor Robert Ehrlich stated support of a constitutional convention. According to Ehrlich, "An opportunity to modernize state government, an opportunity to engage in this process, might be beneficial to the state. We'll see. It's something that has not been, quite frankly, a major issue in our campaign, but I think people need to have an open mind about it." O'Mally agreed, stating, "If that's what people want to do then that's what we should do."
In a column published by the Washington Post, Aaron C. Davis wrote that a Constitutional Convention should be held in order to rewrite the problems currently found in the Maryland Constitution. In the column, published on July 5, 2010, Davis wrote, "In the past 143 years, more than 200 amendments have been added to the Constitution, turning it into a mishmash of dead vestiges and small-bore regulatory issues and addressing few modern-day concerns. At 47,000 words, it's nearly eight times longer than the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights."
Opponents of a Constitutional Convention were as follows:
- Senate President Thomas Mike Miller, Jr. was against a Constitutional Convention, stating, "There's got to a be a real reason to undertake a constitutional convention. Quite frankly, I don't see it. Government has worked well in Maryland since the American Revolution, through ups and downs."
- According to Susan Turnbull, the chairwoman of the Maryland Democratic Party, “Personally, I don’t think there’s a need” for a constitutional convention. "We’re working pretty well in the state of Maryland.”
- The Baltimore Sun editorial board stated its recommendation to voters, arguing, "In 1990, voters also had the opportunity to convene a constitutional convention. The Sun advised at the time that, given the failure of the 1967 effort, it would be wiser to pursue whatever reforms are needed as individual amendments through the normal legislative process. Indeed, many of the ideas the convention came up with in the 1960s eventually became law that way. We think that’s still good advice."
|Constitutional conventions on the ballot in 2010|
According to reports, the state of Maryland is one of 14 states that ask voters once in a decade or more whether or not to hold a constitutional convention. The other states that have this requirement in their constitutions are:
Every 10 years
Five states have a Constitutional Convention question on the statewide ballot every ten years:
Every 16 years
One state has a Constitutional Convention question on the statewide ballot every sixteen years:
Every 20 years
Eight states have a Constitutional Convention question on the statewide ballot every twenty years:
- Maryland 2010 General Election Ballot Questions, prepared by the Maryland State Board of Elections
- Article explaining Constitutional Convention
- Should States Hold New Constitutional Conventions?
- Constitutional Convention Proposal On Md. Ballot
- Md. voters to again decide constitutional convention
- ↑ SoMdNews.com, "State's health care progress lauded at first bill signing", April 14, 2010
- ↑ 2010 General Election Ballot Questions, "Statewide Ballot Questions", Retrieved August 31, 2010
- ↑ 2010 Maryland Convention, "We are not alone", July 6, 2009
- ↑ 4.0 4.1 4.2 Maryland Reporter, "Constitutional convention question moves forward", February 2, 2010
- ↑ WJZ.com, "Constitutional Convention Question Still Unclear", November 3, 2010
- ↑ Baltimore Sun, "Abstentions doom constitutional convention measure", November 4, 2010
- ↑ Washington Post, "Give Marylanders the constitutional convention they voted for", November 14, 2010
- ↑ Blank votes totaled out to be 12 percent
- ↑ Maryland State Board of Elections, "2010 General Election Ballot Questions", Retrieved August 31, 2010
- ↑ Constitution of Maryland, "Article XIV"
- ↑ PR Newswire, "O'Malley and Ehrlich Endorse 'Yes' Vote on Nov. 2 Maryland Con-Con Ballot Referendum", October 22, 2010
- ↑ The Washington Post, "Md. to vote in November on whether to hold constitutional convention", July 5, 2010
- ↑ Richmond Times Dispatch, "Maryland voters to weigh constitutional do-over", August 7, 2010
- ↑ The Herald Mail, "County voters will face three ballot questions", September 26, 2010
- ↑ Baltimore Sun, "The constitutional convention: Better in theory than practice", October 8, 2010
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