The League of Women Voters today announced a new position calling for safeguards to govern the constitutional convention process of proposing amendments to the U.S. Constitution.
"The League believes that procedural safeguards must be put in place to protect democratic values and ensure that any proposed amendments reflect the concerns of citizens," said Elisabeth MacNamara, president of the League of Women Voters of the United States.
"We cannot afford to have a chaotic or unrepresentative process for amending the Constitution. We can't afford to let special interests dominate a constitutional convention," MacNamara continued.
There are many current proposals for constitutional amendments, from both the right and the political left, from a Balanced Budget Amendment to one curbing the rights of corporations. "Everyone should be concerned what a runaway, topsy-turvy Constitutional Convention might do. Before we head into uncharted territory that could affect our basic principles of government and our individual rights, we need to make sure some basic rules are in place," according to MacNamara.
The League supports these safeguards for a Constitutional Convention:
1) The Convention must be transparent and not conducted in secret;
2) Representation at the Convention must be based on population rather than one state, one vote; and delegates should be elected rather than appointed;
3) Voting at the Convention must be by delegate, not by state;
4) The Convention must be limited to a specific topic;
5) Only state resolutions on a single topic count when determining if a Convention should be called; and
6) The validity of state calls for an Article V Constitutional Convention should be determined by the most recent action of the state.
The new League position is especially relevant because the Balanced Budget Amendment is close to achieving the number of states needed to require Congress to call a convention. "The states that have called for a convention on the Balanced Budget Amendment have not provided for the safeguards that are necessary. Any calls for a constitutional convention must have built-in protections to ensure it is not hijacked by a small minority," MacNamara said.
Article 5 of the U.S. Constitution provides for two ways to amend the constitution. Congress can initiate an amendment or, if two-thirds of the states petition Congress to do so, a Constitutional Convention can be called to propose amendments. Under either mechanism, proposed amendments must be ratified by three-fourths of the states in order to take effect. There has never been a constitutional convention called under the U.S. Constitution.
"There are many unresolved questions about the powers and processes of an Article V Constitutional Convention. These problems must be solved before America embarks on a dangerous journey," MacNamara concluded.