Difference between revisions of "Constitutional convention"

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* [[Rhode Island]]. [[Article XIV, Rhode Island Constitution#Section 2|Section 2 of Article 14]] of the [[Rhode Island Constitution]] says the question, "Shall there be a convention to amend or revise the constitution?", can go on the ballot if approved by a simple majority of the members of both houses of the state's general assembly.
 
* [[Rhode Island]]. [[Article XIV, Rhode Island Constitution#Section 2|Section 2 of Article 14]] of the [[Rhode Island Constitution]] says the question, "Shall there be a convention to amend or revise the constitution?", can go on the ballot if approved by a simple majority of the members of both houses of the state's general assembly.
  
* [[Tennessee]]. A constitutional convention can occur in Tennessee if a simple majority of the members of both houses of the [[Tennessee State Legislature]] vote to put the question to a statewide vote of the people, who must then approve the question by a simple majority.<ref>[http://www.iandrinstitute.org/New%20IRI%20Website%20Info/I&R%20Research%20and%20History/I&R%20at%20the%20Statewide%20Level/Constitution%20and%20Statutes/Tennessee.pdf ''Tennessee constitutional convention provisions'']</ref>
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* [[Tennessee]]. As established in [[Article XI, Tennessee Constitution#Section 3|Section 3 of Article XI]], a constitutional convention can occur in Tennessee if a simple majority of the members of both houses of the [[Tennessee State Legislature]] vote to put the question to a statewide vote of the people, who must then approve the question by a simple majority.  There is one limit:  Conventions cannot be held oftener than every six years.<ref>[http://www.iandrinstitute.org/New%20IRI%20Website%20Info/I&R%20Research%20and%20History/I&R%20at%20the%20Statewide%20Level/Constitution%20and%20Statutes/Tennessee.pdf ''Tennessee constitutional convention provisions'']</ref>
  
 
* [[West Virginia]]. A constitutional convention can occur in West Virginia if a simple majority of the members of both houses of the [[West Virginia State Legislature]] vote to put the question to a statewide vote of the people, who must then approve the question by a simple majority.<ref>[http://www.iandrinstitute.org/New%20IRI%20Website%20Info/I&R%20Research%20and%20History/I&R%20at%20the%20Statewide%20Level/Constitution%20and%20Statutes/West%20Virginia.pdf ''West Virginia constitutional convention provisions'']</ref>
 
* [[West Virginia]]. A constitutional convention can occur in West Virginia if a simple majority of the members of both houses of the [[West Virginia State Legislature]] vote to put the question to a statewide vote of the people, who must then approve the question by a simple majority.<ref>[http://www.iandrinstitute.org/New%20IRI%20Website%20Info/I&R%20Research%20and%20History/I&R%20at%20the%20Statewide%20Level/Constitution%20and%20Statutes/West%20Virginia.pdf ''West Virginia constitutional convention provisions'']</ref>

Revision as of 18:53, 29 October 2009

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A constitutional convention is a gathering of elected delegates who propose revisions and amendments to a constitution. 233 constitutional conventions to deliberate on state-level constitutions have been held in the United States.[1]

Forty-four states have rules that govern how, in their state, a constitutional convention can be called.

The main differences between states in terms of their laws governing constitutional conventions are:

  • In some states, a ballot measure asking the people to approve or disapprove of holding a convention appears automatically on the ballot every ten or (in some states) twenty years.
  • In some states, the state legislature can act to place on the ballot a question asking the voters whether they wish to call a convention. These states vary with respect to:
  • What percentage of those in the state legislature must vote to place such a question on the ballot.
  • Whether the legislature must vote in favor of placing such a measure before the people in one or more legislative sessions.
  • Once a constitutional convention question has been placed before the voters, what percentage of them must approve it for it to become part of the state's constitution.
  • In some states, the legislature can call a convention without having to ask the voters for their approval of a convention.

Automatic ballot referrals

See also: Automatic ballot referral

In some states, the question of whether to hold a constitutional convention is automatically referred to a statewide ballot without any requirement for a vote of the state legislature to place the question on the ballot.

Every 10 years

  • New Hampshire. The question as to whether to hold a constitutional convention is automatically placed on the statewide general election ballot every ten years. The New Hampshire General Court can also place the question about having a convention on the statewide ballot by a majority vote; if it does, the timing of the automatic referrals will change to be ten years from the last time the state legislature put the question on the ballot rather than ten years from the last automatic referral of the question. Up until 1964, the New Hampshire Constitution (Part 2, Article 100) required an automatic ballot question about whether to hold a convention every seven years.
  • Rhode Island. The question as to whether to hold a constitutional convention is automatically placed on the statewide general election ballot every ten years. The Rhode Island State Legislature can place the question about having a convention on the statewide ballot by a majority vote; if it does, the timing of the automatic referrals will change to be ten years from the last time the state legislature put the question on the ballot rather than ten years from the last automatic referral of the question.[3] 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.

Every 16 years

Every 20 years

  • Illinois. Voters of the state are automatically asked every twenty years whether they want a constitutional convention to be held. This automatic vote occurred most recently in 2008.
  • Maryland. By the terms of Section 2 of Article 14 of the Maryland Constitution, a question as to whether to hold a constitutional convention must automatically be placed on the statewide general election ballot every twenty years. This question will next appear on the ballot in 2010.
  • Missouri. As established in Section 3a of Article XII, a question about whether to hold a constitutional convention is to automatically appear on the state's ballot every twenty years. This practice started in 1942. Voters said "yes" to the question in 1942. From this convention, a new constitution (The Missouri Constitution of 1945) came about. Voters have said subsequently said "no" to the idea of a constitution convention in 1962, 1982 and 2002.[4]
  • Ohio. Section 3 of Article XVI calls for a question about whether to have a convention to appear on the ballot in 1932 and every twenty years thereafter.

Majority vote of legislature, voter ratification

  • Hawaii. The state legislature can convene a constitutional convention by a simple majority vote. If they don't hold one every ten years, the state's Lieutenant Governor orders the question, "Shall there be a convention to propose a revision of or amendments to the Constitution?" to be placed on a statewide ballot. See Hawaii Constitutional Convention (2008).
  • Kentucky. A constitutional convention can be held in Kentucky if (a) the Kentucky State Legislature votes, in two successive sessions, by a simple majority, to place the question on a statewide general election ballot and (b) if the question is approved by a majority of voters, but only if the total number of votes cast for the calling of a convention is equal to 25% of the number of qualified voters who voted at the last preceding general election in the state.[7]
  • Tennessee. As established in Section 3 of Article XI, a constitutional convention can occur in Tennessee if a simple majority of the members of both houses of the Tennessee State Legislature vote to put the question to a statewide vote of the people, who must then approve the question by a simple majority. There is one limit: Conventions cannot be held oftener than every six years.[8]
  • West Virginia. A constitutional convention can occur in West Virginia if a simple majority of the members of both houses of the West Virginia State Legislature vote to put the question to a statewide vote of the people, who must then approve the question by a simple majority.[9]

Supermajority vote of legislature

60% vote, voter ratification

  • Illinois. Under Article XIV of the Illinois Constitution, a question about whether to hold a constitutional convention can be placed before the state's voters if 60% of the members of both houses of the Illinois General Assembly vote in the affirmative. If such a question does appear on the ballot, it must be affirmed by a supermajority vote of 60% of those voting on the question or a majority of those who cast a ballot for any office in that election.
  • Nebraska. According to Section 2 of Article XVI of the Nebraska Constitution, a constitutional convention can be held to "revise, amend, or change" the constitution if 60% of Nebraska's legislators agree to put a question about whether to have such a convention before the state's voters. A convention will be held if the question wins by a majority vote as long as those voting in favor equal at least 35% of those voting in the election.

2/3rds vote, voter ratification

  • California. A constitutional convention can occur in California if a 2/3rds majority of the members of both houses of the California State Legislature vote to put the question to a statewide vote of the people, who must then approve the question by a simple majority. California has held two such conventions, in 1849 and 1878.[11] The state's voters approved a call for a constitutional convention in 1933, but the California State Legislature declined to act on that call.[12]
  • Delaware. A constitutional convention can occur in Delaware if a 2/3rds majority of the members of both houses of the Delaware State Legislature vote to put the question to a statewide vote of the people, who must then approve the question by a simple majority.
  • Idaho. Article XX of the Idaho Constitution says that a constitutional convention can be called if two-thirds of the members of each house of the Idaho State Legislature vote to place before the people a question as to whether the people want to call a convention. If a majority of all the voters voting at the election vote for a convention, the legislature must arrange to have a convention.
  • Kansas. According to Section 2, Article 14 of the Kansas Constitution, the Kansas State Legislature can, by a 2/3rds vote, place on the statewide ballot the question, "Shall there be a convention to amend or revise the constitution of the state of Kansas?". The legislature can also call a convention that is limited to consideration of amending a particular specified article of the state's constitution. A simple majority of voters is required to approve the question.[13]
  • Minnesota. According to Section 3 of Article IX of the Minnesota Constitution, a constitutional convention can be held in Minnesota if 2/3rds of the members of both houses of the Minnesota State Legislature vote to put the question of calling such a convention to a vote of the people, who can approve it by a simple majority. However, any proposed amendments coming out of the convention, when submitted to voters for their approval, require a 60% supermajority vote.[14]
  • Montana. Montana offers three different paths to having a constitutional convention. One of them is for the Montana State Legislature, "by an affirmative vote of two-thirds of all the members ... [to submit] to the qualified electors the question of whether there shall be an unlimited convention to revise, alter, or amend" the constitution. The state's electors can also collect signatures to put this question on the ballot under the state's ordinary procedures for a ballot initiative and the question automatically goes on the ballot every twenty years, if it hasn't gone on through a legislative referral or a citizen initiative.
  • Nevada. Section 2 of Article 16 says that if two-thirds of the Nevada State Legislature votes in favor, a question about whether to hold a constitutional convention goes on a statewide ballot. A majority vote -- but not a simple majority vote -- of the statewide electorate is required to generate a convention: "In determining what is a majority of the electors voting at such election, reference shall be had to the highest number of votes cast at such election for the candidates for any office or on any question."
  • Ohio. Although a question about whether to have a convention appears automatically on the Ohio ballot every twenty years, the Ohio State Legislature can also put a question about whether to have one on the ballot with a 2/3rds vote.

Supermajority legislative vote, no voters

Virginia Constitution of 1830
  • Maine. According to Section 15 of Part III of Article IV, the legislature can, by a 2/3 concurrent vote of both branches, call a constitutional convention. Maine has never called such a convention; however, two "constitutional commissions" were impanelled, one in 1876 and one in 1962, but neither led to significant changes.[19]
  • Virginia. A constitutional convention can occur in Virginia if a 2/3rds majority of the members of both houses of the Virginia State Legislature vote in favor of the question. No additional voter ratification on the question of whether to hold the convention is required.[20]

Petition onto ballot

  • Section 4 of Article XI of the Florida Constitution grants the people the right to put a question on the ballot as to whether a convention shall be called. The question asked is, "Shall a constitutional convention be held?" (In order to put that question on the ballot, more signatures need to be collected than are required to qualify a standard initiated constitutional amendment for the ballot.) Florida is the only state that explicitly states that people can collect signatures to qualify a constitutional convention question for the ballot.
  • Section 1 of Article III of the North Dakota Constitution explicitly says that the initiative petition process can be used to call a constitutional convention. The North Dakota Constitution provides no mechanism under which the state legislature can initiate a call for a convention.

Convention allowed, no mechanism

Cover of the 1857 Oregon Constitution

The Oregon Constitution alludes to the possibility of a convention and imposes some negative parameters on such a convention, without explicitly saying how a convention could be called.

Section 1 of Article XVIII says "No convention shall be called to amend or propose amendments to this Constitution, or to propose a new Constitution, unless the law providing for such convention shall first be approved by the people on a referendum vote at a regular general election." What is left undefined is how the question of whether to hold a convention can come before the people in the first place: Can citizens petition under Article IV to put it on the ballot? Can the state legislature vote to put it on the ballot?

States that don't provide for conventions

  • Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania Constitution does not lay out the rules for how a constitutional convention can be called but, nevertheless, the state has held five such conventions, mostly recently in 1968 when the current constitution was adopted.[22] The state legislature appears to take as a matter of tradition, rather than explicit constitutional direction, that it can vote to put a constitutional convention question on the ballot. For example, Ann Livak writes in "Pennsylvania's Constitutions and the Amendment Process - Where it Began, Where it is Now" that "...in 1961, the Committee for State Constitutional Revision led by Milton J. Shapp got underway and in 1963 forced the legislature to call for a referendum on a constitutional convention....The 1967 legislature gave priority to constitutional revision and passed a convention enabling bill..."[22]

See also

External links

References