Constitutional Convention

Karen DeWitt

Advocates for the Forever Wild forest preserves in New York’s Adirondack and Catskill mountains, are trying to spread the word about two ballot propositions in the November elections. They are for one of the proposals, but against another. 

New York state Capitol
Karen DeWitt

A wide variety of groups have spent over $1.3 million to urge voters to vote “no” on holding a Constitutional Convention. The opponents have far outspent a smaller number of advocates who urge a “yes” vote on the November ballot. 

A new poll finds waning support for the holding of a constitutional convention in New York. The issue is on the ballot in November.

Will New York voters decide to hold a Constitutional Convention in November?

Bill Samuels, founder of Effective New York, tells WAMC’s Alan Chartock why he supports the measure. 

Sharon Stern Gerstman
Sharon Stern Gerstman

Groups that often find themselves on opposite sides of political debates have come together this year to oppose a constitutional convention in New York. The group New Yorkers Against Corruption includes the NYS Conservative Party, a number of labor unions, Right to Life, Planned Parenthood, and local GOP and Democratic party chapters. But the New York State Bar Association is urging New Yorkers to vote "yes" on the issue this election day. Bar Association President Sharon Stern Gerstman explains the group's thinking.

There have been calls for a new national constitutional convention. They are generally cast as calls for a convention to do something specific, rather than open-ended authority to propose changes. There is an argument about whether those calls fit the constitutional definition of state initiated calls for a convention and what such a convention might do, But clearly many states think they are valid and have proposed a new convention. Indeed such calls may be only a few states shy of the required two-thirds of the states, depending on how many calls are deemed valid. So I think we should talk about it. I’ll spare you the technical argument and focus on the issues.

Governor Andrew Cuomo
Office of Governor Andrew Cuomo

Add Governor Andrew Cuomo’s name to the list of state politicians wary of holding a constitutional convention.  Voters get to decide this November whether New York should hold the event.

WAMC

Supporters of a constitutional convention in New York say the amendment deserves prominent placement on the November ballot. Opponents say the entire idea is too risky, and that the state should skip it.

Adirondack Park sign
Pat Bradley/WAMC

Every 20 years, New Yorkers are given the opportunity for a constitutional convention. A referendum will be on the ballot in November asking voters if one should be held.  Groups are lining up on each side.  Several environmental organizations are opposed to the convention because they are concerned that a key protection for the Adirondacks and Catskills could be eliminated.

  The struggle between individual rights and the good of the community as a whole has been the basis of nearly every major disagreement in the history of the United States, from the debates at the Constitutional Convention and in the run up to the Civil War to the fights surrounding the agendas of the Federalists, the Progressives, the New Dealers, the civil rights movement, and the Tea Party.

In American Character, Colin Woodard traces these two key strands in American politics through the four centuries of the nation’s existence.

Buried in Governor Cuomo’s $154 billion state budget plan is an appropriation of $1 million to establish a commission to consider the possibility of a state constitutional convention.  The governor’s commission, if approved, would be charged with developing a blueprint for the process of running a constitutional convention, if one is called by the voters in 2017.  

New Yorkers will soon get a chance to decide whether to hold a constitutional convention in New York- but some government reform groups say there needs to be some major changes made first- including banning double dipping by state lawmakers who might become delegates. 

New Yorkers Could Hold Constitutional Convention

Aug 13, 2015
The New York state Capitol
WAMC Photo by Dave Lucas

New Yorkers will get their first chance in 20 years to vote on whether to hold a convention to change the state’s constitution in November of 2017, but groups advocating for an informed vote on the issue say it’s not too early to start getting the word out.

  In The Return of George Washington: 1783-1789, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Edward J. Larson recovers a crucially important—yet almost always overlooked—chapter of George Washington’s life, revealing how Washington saved the United States by coming out of retirement to lead the Constitutional Convention and serve as our first president.

National Archives and Records Administration/Wikimedia Commons-Public Domain

Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy says he'd rather see the Congress craft a constitutional amendment to overturn recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions on campaign finance than have states call a constitutional convention to address the issue.