Along with voting for President, Governor, U.S. Representatives, State Reps and Senators, and a slew of other offices this year, voters will face the question of whether or not to authorize a constitutional convention in New Hampshire.
The Constitution requires that every ten years, voters—by a simple majority vote—get to decide whether or not to set in motion a full-fledged Constitutional convention.
If you haven’t heard about this, it’s because for the past 20 years, voters have turned down the call for a ConCon.
In 1992, the vote was 210,346 (49.15 percent) for it, 217,575 against.
In 2002, the vote was 177,721 (49.13 percent) for it, 184,042 against.
There are two ways to amend the Constitution. An amendment can either be submitted by a 60 percent both of the House and Senate and then approved by two-thirds of voters at the next election; or an amendment could be offered by a similar 60 percent of a Constitutional Convention and then approved by two-thirds of voters at the ensuing election.
Those who have been around for a while may recall the long lines at the polls in November, 1984 (the Reagan-Mondale year). That was because the ConCon from the previous year offered so many amendments that voters had a considerable amount of reading to do in their polling booths.
I recall more than an hour’s wait at Jewitt Street School in Ward 8, Manchester. Of course, Reagan won big, and the GOP sweep was on in New Hampshire.
Among the Constitutional Amendments approved that day was the call for annual sessions.
While there is no real way of telling whether more Democrats or Republicans tend to vote yes for a ConCon, there are indications that Democrats tend to be in opposition. How do we know? Because the vote was less in Democratic strongholds of Strafford and Cheshire Counties; greater in Republican areas such as Carroll, Hillsborough and Rockingham Counties.
Should the call for an education funding amendment (CACR 12) fail in the House or Senate in the next couple weeks, the support for a ConCon could increase. However, keep in mind that if history is any indication, many of those elected to a ConCon are the same who are elected as State Reps and Senators.
It would require a separate election, but we don’t need to think about that unless the vote in November is favorable.
I’ve thought about it, and I will vote against the call for a ConCon. I think I voted for it ten years ago, but I have less confidence than I used to in the ability of people to refrain from tampering with what is basically an entirely sound document. In other words, I suspect a ConCon could do more harm than good, but that’s a debate we’ll have in the fall.
If history is any indication, it’ll be a close call.
Keep in mind that while an amendment requires two-thirds, the call for a ConCon needs only a simple majority. (If you look in the 2003 Red Book, beware. The vote totals are reversed for the two issues which were before the public that year. I’ve given the correct numbers here).