What is the Convention of States?
Article V of the U.S. Constitution states
“…on the application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments, which, in either Case, shall be valid to all Intents and Purposes, as Part of this Constitution, when ratified by the Legislatures of three fourths of the several States, or by Conventions in three fourths thereof…”
In plain English, it simply says that state legislatures can amend the U.S. Constitution, provided two thirds of the states agree to do so. States will vote to elect delegates to represent them at the Convention. These delegates will vote on various bills that have been passed by the represented states’ legislatures to be presented at the Convention. If three fourths of the states’ delegates vote in favor of an issue, it passes and goes directly to Congress to be voted on. In this way, the people can amend the U.S. Constitution.
The Convention of States is not a new movement or idea. There was also a Convention of States in 1789, through which the Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments that protect the basic rights of the citizen, was established.
The Modern Movement
The modern Convention of States movement seeks to restore state sovereignty, mend the federal debt/spending issues, etc. Dr. Michael P. Farris, Project Director of the Convention of States Project, says,
“The only and best solution is for the states to stand together and not merely defy federal power grabs, we can actually remove their power. This is called the Convention of States.”
Through the Convention, many are hoping to eliminate executive overreach, impose term limits on Congress and Supreme Justices, etc.
This has been sparked by the many executive orders under the Bush and Obama administrations, along with other factors such as the incompetence of Congress to establish a balanced federal budget.
While it seems that the country could profit from such a Convention, there are many who are concerned about what could potentially go wrong after delegates are chosen and power is passed out of the hands of the people. They believe that it is likely to become a “runaway convention” in which the people have no voice at all. Some suggest that the delegates might even go as far as to eliminate the Bill of Rights completely.
The most weighty arguments against the Convention of States include the idea that Congress pays little mind to what the Constitution currently says, and a Convention to amend it most likely won’t make a difference in the matter. Some even argue that the Constitution isn’t flawed to begin with.
There is also a concern as to which party will hold the majority at the Convention, and how that will affect what gets passed into law.
As with many projects such as this, there is the question of who will pay for an event of this size, the answer to which seems to be “taxpayers.”
The founding fathers recognized that the Constitution would have flaws and so included in the document ways in which it can be amended, one of which is included in Article V. Is this an advisable method? You decide.
“The founders inserted this alternative method [the Convention of States] of obtaining constitutional amendments because they knew the Congress would be unwilling to give attention to many issues the people are concerned with, particularly those involving restrictions on the federal government’s own power. The founders foresaw that and they provided the convention as a remedy. If the only way to get that convention is to take this minimal risk, then it is a reasonable one.” – Supreme Justice Antonin Scalia, 1979