STUMP » Articles » More New York Ballot Stuff: No Good Reason for Constitutional Convention » 1 November 2017, 13:59

Where Stu & MP spout off about everything.

More New York Ballot Stuff: No Good Reason for Constitutional Convention  


1 November 2017, 13:59

I’ve been seeing loads of signs against ballot measure #1 here in New York: on having a Constitutional Convention to propose amendments to the state constitution.

The only reason it’s on the ballot is that there’s a constitutional requirement for it to be on the ballot every twenty years.

Some items:
- The state constitution can be amended at any time, via processes I’m too lazy to look up right now
- But there are two state ballot measures this year to amend the state constitution!
- Nobody has proposed anything for the constitution to be amended wholesale

I’m wondering why there’s such heavy politicking against the Constitutional Convention, given that most state ballot measures get voted down with no politicking whatsoever. I haven’t seen any concerted efforts to get this passed.

So I got some links via Truth in Accounting and by a little searching.


Somebody has to write something contrary.

Don’t trust a Constitutional Convention? Then you don’t trust the people: View

New York State’s Constitution mandates that a question be placed on the ballot every 20 years asking New Yorkers whether they want to call a state constitutional convention. On Nov. 7, this question will next be on the ballot.

In New York, the unique democratic function of the periodic constitutional convention referendum is to provide a mechanism for the sovereign (the people) to bypass the state Legislature’s gatekeeping power over constitutional amendments. This mechanism protects the people’s right to reform their government when the Legislature has an institutional conflict of interest with the people. Examples of such conflicts include issues involving legislators’ incumbency advantage (e.g., legislative term limits, ethics, and ballot access) and the relative powers of the competing branches of government (e.g., judicial, executive, and local).

The constitutionally mandated convention process grants the public three votes:

Whether to call a convention
If a convention is called, to elect delegates to the convention
To vote the convention’s proposed amendments up or down.

Of the three votes, the third is the critical one because it involves passing law rather than agenda setting.

The crux of the difference between supporters and opponents of a convention involves the third vote. The “no” camp argues the people lack the competence to vote in their own self-interest. But it prefers to avoid making this claim directly because doing so would insult voters.

Seriously? I haven’t heard boo from any supporters.

I understand the argument of this guy that the other process for amending the state constitution is to go through the state assembly, but we’ve got a ballot measure to amend the constitution this year: to revoke pensions from criminal officials. The Assembly balked at the measure for years, but after too many high profile corruption cases, they finally passed it. I bet it will pass.

Here is my argument: it will be a waste of time and money. Period.

He is going on about the professional politicians in the Assembly, along with the lobbyists who shovel money at them, being a roadblock to needed reforms. FFS, who do you think would control the elections for delegates to this convention?

Item 2: When Rhetoric Attempts to Trump Reality: Why a Constitutional Convention Would Not Take Away Public Employee Rights

Rockefeller Institute of Government President’s Note:
Every 20 years, New Yorkers have the chance to vote on whether to hold a constitutional convention (known as a ConCon). The next vote will be held this November. If the voters approve a convention, delegates will be elected in November 2018, and the convention will open in April 2019. To help educate New Yorkers on the process and potential issues, we have created a website at We recommend you take a look. As the vote fast approaches, the Rockefeller Institute will continue to provide New Yorkers with information in various forms: public education sessions, publications, and debates. Please follow on Twitter or sign up on our website for all the latest information.

Today’s piece by Peter Galie and Christopher Bopst continues a series of pieces between pro and anti-ConCon experts. We hope the dialogue provides insight to help inform voters come November.

Imagine, if you will, a day when the state of New York … is relieved of its
pension obligations to retirees …

— Ned Hoskin, New York State United Teachers

Large scale campaigns consisting of emails and presentations sponsored by public employees unions such as the Civil Service Employees Association (CSEA) and the New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) have sounded an alarm about the dangers a constitutional convention might pose to their members. The picture is ominous, frightening, and meant to be so. The charges are that a constitutional convention would, among others, endanger public-sector pensions and the right to organize and bargain collectively. The union literature makes it clear that these dangers are real and that a convention is an existential threat.

As per the title of the piece, they go on to argue that it’s not a threat. I agree.

This is the part I find unsupported:

New York State needs real constitutional reform — even opponents of a convention concede that much. To hold that reform hostage to a phantom danger to public employees is to deny the good sense and common decency of New Yorkers and do a disservice to the future of our state.

Does it? This is the first I’m hearing about it.


I’m pretty damn politically active. If I haven’t heard about this burning need for a state constitutional overhaul in the 20 years I’ve been here, I’m wondering what’s up.

According to the Wiki page, here are notable supporters:

Notable Supporters[edit]
Andrew Cuomo, Governor of New York3
Bill Samuels, businessman4
Evan Davis, former president of the New York City Bar Association5

Uhhhh….no. None of this inspires confidence in me. What changes do they want? Why haven’t I heard about the changes they want to the state constitution?

From the Village Voice: New York Is About to Vote on a Constitutional Convention: Here’s Why You Should Care

Who Supports Having a Constitutional Convention? And Why?

Though a July Siena College poll found that 47 percent of New Yorkers backed a convention, with only 34 percent opposed, most elected officials and interest groups on both sides of the aisle want the ballot initiative defeated in November. (More on that below.) Those in favor include the good government group Citizens Union; Bill Samuels, a prominent liberal activist and fundraiser; Evan Davis, a former counsel for Mario Cuomo; a group of Women’s Marchers who are hoping a convention could enshrine abortion rights in the state constitution ahead of any Trump attempt to weaken Roe v. Wade; and the New York State Bar Association.

The elder Cuomo supported holding a convention, though his fellow governor son, Andrew, has been noncommittal. The arguments for a convention boil down to being offered a rare chance to enact sweeping change without grinding through a deeply flawed legislative process. The New York State Constitution is an old, unwieldy document — the length of a short novel, at fifty thousand words — that has not been updated since 1938.

Backers of a constitutional convention are largely liberal, though the Republican minority leader of the state assembly, Brian Kolb, also favors holding one. Samuels has spoken about adding a new bill of rights to the constitution — rights to affordable higher education, clean air and water, healthcare, equitable funding for schools — that would make New York a much more progressive place.


Absolutely not.

There is more in the article, and there is nothing I like about what they’re talking about. NO NO NO.

Given that I’m a conservative, and unlikely to have my views represented at such a constitutional convention, I am absolutely on the side of commies like de Blasio who oppose it. Got a sclerotic Assembly? I highly doubt the delegates to such a convention will be better. Go screw.


Now, that was from the Village Voice, who would likely be on board with many of the progressive ideas I hate.

Let’s see what this pro-ConCon outfit has to say for itself:

Our guiding principles for reform within a State Constitutional Convention include:

Fair Elections. Elections should be impartial, neutral and equitable, minimizing partisan and financial interests. Voting should be accessible, easy, consequential, and expected.

Honest and Ethical Government. The constitution should include stronger ethics regulations, with vigorous oversight and established ethical requirements for public officials.

Accountable and Balanced Government. As the legislature and governor work together to pass laws and budgets, their actions should be transparent, with a more equitable balance of power.

A More Effective Court System. The judicial branch must be updated to streamline and enhance operations, with a consolidated trial court system and merit-based appointments for judges.

Robust and Functional Local Government. Municipal governments must be empowered to manage more of their affairs and to represent and provide services to New Yorkers adequately.

Methodical Maintenance of State Constitution. The constitution is appropriately difficult to change, yet there should be mechanisms to conduct targeted upkeep, ensuring implementation of the will of the people.

The first item is probably public financing of campaigns: NO NO NO

Voting is already accessible, easy, and expected. Those damn lever voting machines are gone, and we’ve got scannable paper ballots. Yay. That requires no constitutional anything.

Ethical government – nothing is stopping them from doing something NOW without constitutional cover. Fooey on y’all.

More power for the governor is the next one, I suppose.

Again, they can start working on streamlining court system without needing a specific convention for it. Hop to it, Assembly.

Methodical Maintenance of State Constitution? Come on, this ain’t a car. The U.S. Constitution has been able to survive over 200 years with only a few dozen amendments, two of which simply counteract each other (Prohibition and repeal of Prohibition). As the Prohibition amendment showed, the less often we mess with our Constitution, the better.


Originally, I was suspicious that all the NO on the Constitutional Convention was a way to have people vote NO against ballot measure #2, the aforementioned yanking of pensions from criminal officials. Now I realize it’s on-the-level.

I am completely suspicious of the sloganeering above, on a WAR IS PEACE Orwellian vision.

It’s so fabulous when I distrust basically all politicians surrounding me. Cuomo sucks, and so does de Blasio. All y’all can go screw. I can’t remember how I voted back in 1997 – my only remark then was that it was my first encounter with the lever voting machines – but I doubt I voted in favor of a convention then, either.


This letter-writer encapsulates my issues:

There are three important reasons to vote “no” to having a constitutional convention.

First, this will cost state taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars, as lawmakers collect salaries and pension credits, with no guarantee of success. The delegates can keep meeting while the taxpayers keep paying.

Second, fixing “a political system that has long fostered corruption” can be addressed for at no additional charge through the amendment process. For example, one need only to look at the two amendments on this year’s ballot. That’s how we address specific issues: via amendments.

Third, the idea that “citizens would have a chance to fix … what politicians simply will not” is not idealistic; it’s unrealistic. It’s naive to think that the common people running against well-known politicians will be elected as delegates. During the last convention, 80 percent of delegates were career politicians. In this politically charged climate, how could this outcome be different?

This is the time to protect our constitutionally guaranteed principles by carefully working on specific problems through the tried-and-true amendment process, not through the uncertainty and possible disaster of opening up our state constitution. All New Yorkers should vote “no.”

Thanks to Caroline Brooks of Scotia — I totally agree.

It’s a boondoggle for career politicians to get more junkets paid for, and to feel important. These people do not need to feel any more important than they already have puffed themselves up to.

Related Posts
On recessions: definitions, Humpty Dumpty, and out-sourcing decision-making
Divestment and ESG Follies: Mandating Women on Corporate Boards
Trying to Deflect the Blame: Calpers and the Catholic Church (and Trump!)