What is the Constitutional Convention?

A legislative column from Assemblyman Clifford W. Crouch (R-Bainbridge)
October 4, 2017

In recent weeks as the ballot vote draws near, I have been receiving a lot of feedback, both emails and letters, in favor of and against the upcoming Constitutional Convention ballot vote. With all the attention the issue is receiving, I wanted to release some information about the Constitutional Convention and a bit of history about past conventions and the process.

The Constitutional Convention ballot vote is required to be presented to the voters of the state of New York every twenty years as stated in Article 19, Section 2 of the New York state Constitution. The last vote occurred in 1997 to not hold a Constitutional Convention, while the last actual Convention was held 50 years ago in 1967. In 1938, though, the last Convention was held which actually amended the state constitution.

On November 7 of this year, voters will again answer the question “Shall there be a convention to revise the constitution and amend the same?” If the people answer no, the process stops, while if the answer is yes, a delegation selection process will commence. Delegates are elected by voters, with three coming from each New York Senate District and 15 at large.

Delegates are required to collect signatures and adhere to all campaign regulations that a typical Senate candidate would follow. The Constitutional Convention has no limits on issues that may be considered, and is granted the power to appoint officers, employees and assistants.

After the amendments are made they will again be presented to the people of New York for a ballot vote before ratifying the newly-amended Constitution.

One of the most frequently asked questions I have heard is, why hold a Constitutional convention? Many strong advocates of the Constitutional Convention believe this is the only way to get real change here in New York State, especially on the issues related to corruption. Many advocates believe that dysfunctional legislative process in Albany is too far gone to straighten itself out, and will need hands-on change and Constitutional Amendments to get things done.

The idea of a Constitutional Convention has not gone without opposition. Many staunch opponents of the Convention fear that once again upstate will get the short end of the stick, and New York City interests will overpower those of upstate and will continue to control the narrative. The potential continued loss of Second Amendment and hunting rights is another fear expressed by the opposition, as well as the potential for interest groups funding their handpicked delegates in an attempt to control the narrative of the Convention.

Nevertheless, on November 7 the people will decide if this will be the first Convention held in 50 years.