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Vermont Constitutional Convention Act (1969)

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Amending the Vermont Constitution
Vermont Constitution
A Vermont Constitutional Convention Act was on the June 3, 1969 ballot in Vermont as an advisory vote, where it was defeated.

The question on the ballot was, ""Shall a Vermont Constitutional Convention be convened at the state house in Montpelier on October 6, 1969 to consider the following topics which shall receive a majority of the votes cast upon it in this election, and no others?"

  • Yes: 14,861
  • No: 23,830 Defeatedd

The seven topics that would have been considered if a convention had been approved were:

  • The state's method of amending the constitution.
  • Methods of redistricting.
  • The judicial system
  • Four year terms
  • Method of selection of the Lieutenant Governor of Vermont and appointing, rather than electing, the state's treasurer, secretary of state and auditor
  • The voting age and residential requirements
  • Holding annual sessions of the state legislature.

If the vote on having a convention had been approved, the same act which authorized the 1969 vote on having a convention authorized a second election on each revision proposed by the convention, but since the first vote failed, the second vote never took place, either.

Background

In 1969, it had been the case since 1870 that there was a ten-year time lock on amending the Vermont Constitution. In the 1960s, the Democratic Party became competitive again in Vermont after years in the wilderness, electing Democrat Philip Hoff as Governor of Vermont in 1962.

The Vermont House of Representatives was reapportioned under federal court order in 1965. This federal court re-arrangement of the state's lower house put it in technical violation of the Vermont Constitution, which still called for legislative representation to be a form of town representation. Because of the time lock, however, the constitution could not be changed to bring it into compliance with the federal court order until 1974.

In 1966, Governor Hoff asked Charles Gibson, the Attorney General of Vermont, for an opinion on whether the legislature could call a constitutional convention rather than follow the Vermont constitutional amendment process. Attorney General Gibson said that it was his opinion that a convention could be called by a vote of the people, citing as his authority the language in Article 7 that speaks of the people's right to "reform or alter" government.

The newly potent Democrats also wanted a constitution because they saw it as a way to modernize governance in the state. They desired a number of changes beyond bringing the constitution into compliance with the 1965 federal court order.

Further questions were presented to the Attorney General's office, and in 1968, Assistant Attorney General Frank Mahady re-affirmed Gibson's 1966 opinion. Republican disagreed and formed a committee to resist the idea of having a convention.

Path to the ballot

The Vermont Legislature passed Act 74 in 1969, An Act to Convene a Constitutional Convention and Provide for a Referendum for Revision of the Constitution. Act 74 called for two different votes, the second of which became moot when the first failed.

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