An “Article V” Constitutional Convention would put all rights at risk
SACRAMENTO — Today, California Common Cause, a leading democracy reform group, announced their opposition to Governor Newsom’s plan to call for an “Article V” constitutional convention. The bill, SJR 7, would add California to the list of states attempting to rewrite the U.S. Constitution without any rules or governing structure.
In the past year, Common Cause has led the defeat of Article V calls in Illinois and Montana.
The following is a statement from Jonathan Mehta Stein, California Common Cause executive director:
“There are few risks to the freedoms we cherish greater than calling for a constitutional convention. No matter what issue you care about—civil rights, abortion, housing, the environment, or gun safety—an Article V Convention carries the potential to take us back rather than move us forward.
By calling a constitutional convention, Governor Newsom would invite wealthy special interests to open the hood of the U.S. Constitution and tinker with our rights and liberties—without a single rule. The voices of everyday Californians would be lost amid big monied special interests pouring money into retooling our Constitution for their own benefit.
A constitutional convention lacks clear legal guardrails and established historical norms regarding what subjects may be considered. There is also no specific language in the U.S. Constitution to limit a convention to one issue. Some legal scholars believe that a convention, once called, will be able to consider any amendments to the constitution that the delegates want to consider. A federal constitutional convention was last held in 1787 when the Constitution itself was drafted. At that convention, those gathered threw out the rules that were intended to govern their purpose and authority, limited to amending the Articles of Confederation, and instead crafted an entirely new document. This one historical precedent poses great concern for attempts to limit the scope of any convention in the future.
Further, there are no known rules. It is unknown how delegates to a convention would be picked, what rules would be in place, what would happen in the case of legal disputes, how the American people and states would be represented, and how the influence of special interests could or would be limited, if at all.
It is highly likely that were a convention to be successfully called, certain special interests would attempt to use the opportunity to reform basic constitutional rights and democratic principles.
There would be no way to protect California values when every state in the nation would send representatives with different values and interest groups could have a field day with our rights, with no rules or limitations.
An Article V convention is untested and risky. California has no business giving up our rights and liberties to representatives to other states and to unaccountable special interests.. We urge the legislature to reject such an unpredictable future for our state and focus on solving the problems of today—not creating new ones for tomorrow.”