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.

To report mistakes on this website, please use this website’s contact form. It is inevitable that many of the links on this website will become non-operational over time. Many can nevertheless be accessed by going to  https://archive.org/web (The Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine) and entering the apparently defunct URL.

This website is a work in progress, with some notable gaps that year-by-year are gradually being filled in. Some gaps will only be filled when 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 editor of The State Constitutional Convention Clearinghouse, which is a project 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.  Snider has been president of iSolon.org since 2007.

Snider 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.

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.

Snider is a member of Oxford University’s U.S. State Constitutions Network, is the author of “Does the World Really Belong to the Living? The Decline of the Constitutional Convention in New York and Other US States, 1776–2015,” Journal of American Political Thought 6, no. 2 (Spring 2017), and has published more than forty local op-eds on upcoming state constitutional convention referendums.  

Journal Article on State Constitutional Convention Referendums

 

 

Symposium on State Constitutional Convention Referendums

 

 

Course on State Constitutional Convention Referendums

 

 

Compilation of Op-Eds on Recent State Constitutional Convention Referendums

 

Snider, J.H., The State Con-Con Papers, Social Science Research Network, October 31, 2018. Some of the op-eds below are no longer available via their published URLs. So for a convenient way to access all of them through October 2018, download this compilation.

 

Op-eds on Hawaii‘s 2018 Constitutional Convention Referendum

 

 

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 2010 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.