A Constitutional Convention Would Do More Good Than Harm
PRO (5 arguments)
We define a “constitutional convention” on both the Federal and State level - holding conventions so that the Federal Constitution can be amended and a State’s Constitution can be amended.
The Founders thought about every provision in the Constitution. They added the Constitutional Convention as a way for the states to circumvent Congress if Congress is not representing the people. Article V of our Constitution lays out TWO ways to amend the Constitution. One way is to originate an Amendment in Congress. Since the ratification of our Constitution, this has resulted in 27 amendments which are then sent to the states for approval. Once three-quarters of the individual states ratify an amendment, it becomes the law. The second method has never been used. It involves petitions from at least 34 states to call a Constitutional Convention, where one or several amendments are proposed. The amendments are then sent on to all of the states, where 38 states are needed for ratification. This method cuts out the need for Congress to act, and serves as a “check” on Congressional power, by forcing changes that the people want but Congress for whatever reason, fails to acknowledge. A situation like this doesn’t happen often, but it does happen. For example, in the early 1900s, the public wanted Senators to be elected directly by the people, instead of by the state legislatures. The public believed the election process was corrupt and they wanted to directly vote for their senators. The Senators, having been elected by the corrupt system, wouldn’t vote for a Constitutional amendment to change the way senators were elected, since they benefitted from this system. The Senators who were elected by the old system, wanted to keep that old system. So the states began collecting votes to call an Article 5 Constitutional Convention. When the states were only two votes away, Congress suddenly acted on this issue. The result was that Congress settled the issue by proposing the 17th Amendment, which allowed for the direct election of Senators. However, if the Constitutional Convention were not threatened to convene, the 17th Amendment would never have been proposed, and we wouldn’t be able to vote directly for our Senators. Without the pressure of calling a Constitutional Convention, our country would have kept this corrupt election system for the last 100 years.
The Constitutional Convention serves an important purpose, just as the Founders intended. It is a check on the power of Congress by the States.
Our government is in debt and special interests keep spending money that we don’t have.
The US is almost $20 trillion in debt. The people want a balanced budget to rein in this outrageous and unending spending. The current calls by Senator Marco Rubio and Texas Governor Greg Abbot are for calling a Constitutional Convention to add a balanced budget requirement to the Constitution. This is because the Congress, answering to special interests in their districts, agrees to budgets every year that continue to add to our tremendous debt. This is no fringe, unrealistic movement.The calls for a balanced budget were successful in the 1990s under President Bill Clinton. But this was only because in the 1980s, as in 1912, the states came close to having enough votes to call a convention. This pressured Congress to act and in the 1990s Congress came one senate vote away from passing a balanced budget amendment. The congressional mobilization is said to have placed political pressure on Bill Clinton to balance the federal budget.
Thus, these are two examples of how the threat of a Constitutional Convention is enough to make Congress act in the interests of the people, over their own interests, which is obviously a good thing!
US Treasury Department website; USA Today newspaper; In These Times, a political website
A Constitutional Convention within a state can lead to positive change that the people of that state want. A state constitutional convention is a gathering of elected delegates who propose revisions and amendments to a state constitution. 233 constitutional conventions to deliberate on state-level constitutions have been held in the United States. 44 states have rules that govern how, in their state, a constitutional convention can be called. And in 14 states, the question of whether to hold a state 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. Thus, the State Constitutions value the right of citizens to call a state Constitutional Convention as so important, that they put it on the ballot even if no citizen has requested it! The willingness of states to make changes through Constitutional Conventions has led to better laws in state constitutions than in our Federal Constitution. For example, a study by the Buffalo News on New York’s state constitutional history indicates nearly every major right – communal or individual – offered in the state constitution was added by constitutional conventions, not legislative amendments, including: The state’s Bill of Rights; environmental protections preserving state forest lands in the Adirondacks; the Education Article, which has been interpreted to provide the right to a sound basic education; the requirement that the state provide aid and care for its needy; provisions encouraging the state and municipalities to provide low-income housing for vulnerable residents; and a labor bill of rights. Would these provisions have been adopted without resort to constitutional conventions? “We wouldn’t bet our future on it” says the study’s author.
Clearly, on the state level the common use of Constitutional Conventions has added laws to the states constitutions that have directly benefitted citizens of that state.
The Buffalo News, February 1, 2017; ballotpedia website of state government statistics
Most of the amendments are outdated and just plain old, OVER 200 years old in fact. If the US were to modernize the constitution, we would have a constitution better fit for our time period. For example, the LGBTQ community was not recognized or accepted in the late 1700s, but now there needs to be rights for that community.
The second amendment was written during the Revolutionary war and needs to be updated. 30,000 people a year die from firearms, and on average, 93 people a day are shot and killed. This is all because the second amendment, written during our war with the British, makes it so easy to buy legal guns, and created a black market for illegal guns.
As time progresses, our society progresses. We need to be able to upgrade our laws in order to maintain a functional society that has rights for all. If at least ⅔ of our country desire to make a change in the law, we know that this change is necessary.The long lasting effects is that our Constitution would be easy to interpret, way better than the old one.
Judge, the founding fathers are long dead. So when there is a confusing issue regarding the constitution, how do we know how they interpreted it? We don't! We need to change our constitution to be interpreted by modern day people, so that anything can be interpreted by the person who wrote it and everyone can know exactly what they meant.
Many conservatives believe in the idea of originalism which makes it hard to interpret the constitution with modern day culture. The Oxford Dictionary defines “originalism” as the judicial interpretation of the constitution that aims to follow closely the original intentions of those who drafted it. I don't know about you judge, but I’m pretty sure Ben Franklin has been dead for 230 years and it seems silly to try and guess how he would interpret the constitution today. A constitutional convention will fix this by making it easier to interpret amendments because the original drafters will be alive. We can have the constitution be interpreted right by the modern source, instead of trying to guess how a person from another era would interpret it to address modern problems.
In the end we need modern founders who can interpret our constitution for modern times.