Every 20 years, voters are given the choice to approve what is known as the Constitutional Convention, an event in which delegates gather in Albany and are given the opportunity to rewrite the state’s most-important governing document. Unfortunately, the convention was denied once again by New York because of the many issues individuals see in it.
“There has been a large drop in support for the Constitutional Convention,” said Harvey Schantz, Plattsburgh State Political Science professor and Chairperson of Political Science. Schantz acts as an observer of the vote and has recorded the data from past years.
“Statewide, the Constitutional Convention was approved in 1965 with 53.4 percent of the vote, but it was rejected in 1977 with only 40 percent of the vote. In 1997 the support went down to 37 percent. It went down to an astounding 17 percent in 2017”
In 2017, only one out of six voters voted yes to the Constitutional Convention. Schantz shared his opinion on why support for the convention has reached such low percentages
“For a number of reasons,” Schantz said. “A number of groups, such as environmental groups and labor unions that were successful in earlier constitutional conventions, want to make sure that their hard-earned changes are not touched and amended further.
An example of this would be when the environmentalist won a “Forever Wild” approval in the Adirondacks during the 1914 Constitutional Convention, and when labor unions won organizing rights during the 1938 convention. After their victories, neither group was interested in approving another convention because it ran the risk of not going in their favor.
Schantz also talked about how there are good reasons to hold the convention.
“People felt that we could amend the constitution of the state in order to bring about reforms, such as term limits or limitations on campaign spending,” Schantz said.
Schantz said that the convention had a one-sided rejection by New York. In light of this the Siena Poll asked voters if a Constitutional Convention were to be held, which of the following statements is closest to your view on how the convention would proceed: It would be an expensive waste of time run by the same politicians, lobbyist and special interest groups, who have controlled Albany for decades, and nothing good will get done; or it will be a once-in-a-generation opportunity to bring our state constitution into the 21st century
“Sixty percent said nothing good will get done,” Schantz said. “Only 29 percent said it’s a once-in-a-generation opportunity.”
PSUC professors share the state’s disinterest for a Constitutional Convention because of the common issues.
Daniel Lake, associate political science and Latin American politics professor, has no incentive to vote yes.
“No one provided me with a good argument to vote yes,” Lake said. “This event has the potential to rewrite the constitution, it’s a major endeavor.”
Assistant Director of Communications, Gerianne P. Wright, stated her reasoning was the expense of having the Convention
“The Constitutional Convention costs taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars and rarely has resulted in change,” Wright said. “Changes can be made by a preposition on a ballet without the convention.”
“Why spend the money?”
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