Thanks to the Arizona legislature, we’re getting perilously close to a constitutional disaster.
Copper State lawmakers this week made Arizona the 29th state to call for a new constitutional convention to pass an amendment requiring the federal budget to be balanced. The action means just five more states – for a total of 34 – must pass similar calls to force the convening of a convention that could go far beyond the balanced budget and undertake a wholesale rewrite of our country’s charter.
The calls are being issued under Article V of the Constitution, which sets out the possibility of a convention as an alternative to the usual method for amending the Constitution – passage of an amendment in the Congress and ratification by three-fourths of the states.
But Article V provides no rules, or even guidelines, for how a convention might operate. No one knows how delegates would be selected or apportioned among the states, who would preside or where the convention would meet.
Particularly in today’s hyper-partisan atmosphere, what sounds like an exercise in citizen participation could easily turn into a political free-for-all, with ideologically-driven delegates pushing amendments that would undercut basic freedoms. Even if the convention ultimately left the Constitution intact, the uncertainty it would generate surely would undercut the public’s already shaky faith in our political system and send the financial markets into a nose dive.
Common Cause is campaigning to persuade states that have called for a convention to reconsider and rescind their actions. We won a rescission fight in Delaware last year and one in New Mexico earlier this month; we’re actively pursuing rescission in Maryland and Nevada. And we want states that haven’t acted to say no to any effort to add them to the roster of pro-convention states.
Issues: More Democracy Reforms
Tags: The Dangerous Path