NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Practical Guidance for Convening an Amendments Convention

March 1, 2011

Recent history shows that as promoters of the process of amending the Constitution by convention approach success, supporters of the status quo campaign furiously to abort it.  In the past, powerful opposition has come from key figures in Congress, in the judiciary, in the media and in academia.  Opponents have advanced legal objections designed to induce Congress to disregard applications and to persuade the courts to invalidate them.  The claim that a convention would be inherently uncontrollable usually has been the most prominent weapon in their arsenal, says Robert G. Natelson, a senior fellow at the Goldwater Institute.  

There is crucial practical drafting guidance for exercising the states' constitutional authority. 

  • Natelson recommends that state legislators draft their Article V applications and delegate commissions with an eye to targeting specific subject matters, while still giving state delegates a meaningful level of deliberative independence to ensure that the amendments convention can serve its consensus-building and problem-solving purpose.
  • The key is to regard an amendments convention as a modern-day "task force" -- a representative body that is limited to a specific agenda but expected to exercise judgment on accomplishing that agenda.

Source: Robert G. Natelson, "Amending the Constitution by Convention: Practical Guidance for Citizens and Policymakers," Goldwater Institute, February 22, 2011.


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