Recently the Goldwater Institute hosted a standing-room only policy forum to discuss the ins and outs of states initiating the Article V process to amend the U.S. Constitution. If you weren’t able to attend the forum, you can watch the video here. During the question and answer session, a handful of questions were raised about the details of the amendments convention “process,” namely who will select the delegates to an amendments convention and what will the rules be once the delegates are there?
Scholarly research from the Goldwater Institute has answered these questions. At every “convention of the states” in America’s history—and there have been at least twelve—state law determined how delegates were chosen, the convention followed parliamentary procedure (including majority rule), and majority rule was initially based on each state getting one vote. So, there’s no need to worry about rules being set from the get-go that would stack the deck against limited government advocates.
But even if the worst imaginable procedures and process rules were adopted, no one should prefer the political status quo to the Article V amendments convention process. Right now treaties, ordinary laws, executive orders, judicial lawmaking and agency rulemaking all become law without ratification from 38 states. Politics-as-usual in Washington, D.C. is subverting our Constitution far more easily than could any convention of the states under Article V.
No one can reasonably expect the federal government to reform itself. The source of an out-of-control federal government is not any particular party or President. It is the centralization of power in Washington, D.C. By contrast, 34 state legislatures are needed to call an Article V amendments convention, 26 states control the convention, and 13 states can block any bad amendment proposal. Article V will help shift the balance of power back to a more equal footing. It gives the states and the people real leverage, not empty promises. That leverage should be used before it is too late.
Nick Dranias holds the Clarence J. and Katherine P. Duncan Chair for Constitutional Government and is director of the Joseph and Dorothy Donnelly Moller Center for Constitutional Government at the Goldwater Institute.
Goldwater Institute: Article V Resource Page
Goldwater Institute: Article V Event