The State Constitutional Convention Clearinghouse

 

U.S. states where the people can use a state constitutional convention to bypass the legislature's gatekeeping power over constitutional amendment

About

The State Constitutional Convention Clearinghouse is a project of iSolon.org. Its mission is to educate the public about upcoming periodic referendums to call a state constitutional convention.

Various factors have contributed to creating an information vacuum on the subject of periodic state constitutional conventions. These factors include an absence of education on the subject in high school, college, and graduate level courses on American government; lack of academic interest in the subject in the fields of political science, political history, and election law; the infrequent, local, and seemingly quixotic nature of state constitutional convention based democratic reform; and the well-resourced and fierce opposition to state constitutional conventions by state legislatures and groups most effective at exerting influence via state legislatures.  Despite these factors, the periodic state constitutional convention serves an essential democratic function within the system of American government.  It is also an institution worthy of improvement.

Of particular note is the comparative knowledge base of local advocates for and against any given constitutional convention call. In recent decades, opponents have been much more sophisticated in their advocacy methods than proponents.  They tend to be part of large, national organizations that share their knowledge and campaign materials from state to state and have developed a set of best practices.  In contrast, supporters start from scratch and have had no incentive to share their knowledge and campaign materials across states.  By providing local advocates with information from other states, this website seeks to not only raise but even the playing field.

If you find any mistakes on this website, please use the contact form to share your observations.

This website is still in the early stages of both its design and content development. Accordingly, you will see some inconsistencies in design format and content completeness. Some of these gaps will only be addressed as the referendums near in the various states that have such referendums.  Much of the early research for this website was done via Nexis and Factiva searches that were not suitable for posting on the Internet.

I am not an advocate for frequent changes in laws and constitutions. But laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths discovered and manners and opinions change, with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors.

Thomas Jefferson, U.S. president and author of the Declaration of Indendence

(inscribed on the wall of the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, DC adjacent to Jefferson's statue)

The Jefferson Memorial

Website Editor,
J.H. Snider

J.H. Snider is the president of iSolon.org, a public policy institute that focuses on the most difficult areas of democratic reform─where elected officials have a conflict of interest in bringing about reforms that might reduce their own power.  He believes that the periodic state constitutional convention provides a vital democratic function yet has come to be neglected by both scholars and practitioners.  He also believes that when the public is informed of the institution’s democratic function and history, including both its strengths and weaknesses, it will support and seek to enhance this mechanism of democratic reform.

iSolon.org was founded in 2007.  During Spring Semester 2008, Snider was a fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy.  From 2011-2013, he was a fellow at Harvard Law School’s Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics.  He has also been a fellow at the New America Foundation (2001-7), American Political Science Association (1999-2000), and Northwestern University (1998-9, 1994-5).  Dr. Snider has a Ph.D. in American Government from Northwestern University and an A.B. in Social Studies from Harvard College.

Journal Article on State Constitutional Convention Referendums

Symposium on State Constitutional Convention Referendums

Course on State Constitutional Convention Referendums

Op-eds on New York’s 2017 Constitutional Convention Referendum

Op-ed on Illinois’ 2016 Constitutional Initiative Referendums

Op-eds on Rhode Island’s 2014 Constitutional Convention Referendum

Blog Posts on Rhode Island’s 2014 Constitutional Convention Referendum

Op-eds on Maryland’s Constitutional Convention Referendum

Op-ed on Analogous Process at the Local/Charter level of Government

Snider, J.H., Fix Anne Arundel’s decennial charter revision process, Washington Post, Oct. 5, 2016.