Road Map to a Constitutional Convention
At the general election of 2017, New York voters will consider whether to convene a constitutional convention. If approved by a majority of voters casting a vote on the convention question, the steps to holding a convention and possibly rewriting the Constitution are as follows:
Stop #1: Every 20 years, the New York State Constitution requires that the public decide if it wants to update its constitution. The next vote is November 2017.
Stop #2: Will the process for selecting delegates stay the same? Reformers want there to be a legislative debate over the rules for electing delegates and the openness requirements for the convention’s proceedings in advance of the public vote. Knowing the ground rules for delegate selection will be a factor for many New Yorkers in how they decide to cast their votes on the convention question.
Stop #3: The public votes on whether to hold a convention. If the majority of votes cast on the convention question are “yes,” then the process continues. If the majority votes down a convention, no convention happens and the “road” to a convention ends.
Stop #4: Voters choose who they want to be delegates at the convention. At the next general election following the voters’ approval to convene a convention (November 2018), voters choose three (3) delegates from each State Senate District (there are 63 Senate districts), and fifteen (15) are elected statewide. Thus, the convention would consist of a total of 204 delegates. Anyone who is eligible to vote can run for delegate. The processes for getting on the ballot and running a campaign are the same as those running for any other state office. Split-ticket voting for the 15 statewide delegates has historically been extremely difficult.
Stop #5: The convention, consisting of its 204 delegates, begins its deliberations the first Tuesday of April 2019 and continues until work is completed.
Stop #6: As the convention begins, the delegates will likely organize themselves to consider changes to the Constitution, such as creating committees to examine specific areas of the constitution (e.g., environmental policies).
Stop #7: The convention begins to discuss changes. Anything can be on the agenda since it is not possible to limit the scope of a convention.
Stop #8: The delegates decide on which changes they agree should be part of a new Constitution. A key decision will be whether the proposed changes are voted on as one package or as separate individual amendments.
Stop #9: Whatever changes emerge from the convention are then sent to the voters for final approval. New Yorkers go to the polls the following November (2019 at the earliest) to approve or reject the changes.
Stop #10: Any changes that are approved in a statewide referendum go into effect January 1st in the year after the vote is held. If rejected, the Constitution does not change.