Why Do We Want to Call a Convention of States?

Washington, D.C., is broken. The federal government is spending this country into the ground, seizing power from the states and taking liberty from the people. It’s time American citizens took a stand and made a legitimate effort to curb the power and jurisdiction of the federal government. At the Constitutional Convention, George Mason insisted that the States be given the power to amend the Constitution to curb abuses by Washington, D.C. The Founders gave us the solution for today. It is time to use their solution.

You can watch Michael Farris explain the problem here.

What is a Convention of States?

A convention of states is a convention called by the state legislatures for the purpose of proposing amendments to the Constitution. They are given power to do this under Article V of the Constitution. It is not a constitutional convention. It cannot throw out the Constitution because its authority is derived from the Constitution.

We explain a Convention of States further here.

How Do the State Legislatures Call a Convention of States?

Thirty-four state legislatures must pass a bill called an “application” calling for a convention of states. The applications must request a Convention of the States for the same subject matter. The applications are delivered to Congress.

Can Congress Block a Convention of States?

No. As long as each states applies for a convention that deals with the same issue (i.e., limiting the power and jurisdiction of the federal government), Congress must call the convention. Congress can name the place and the time for the convention to begin. If it fails to exercise this power reasonably, either the courts or the states themselves can override Congressional inaction.

Article V says Congress “calls” the convention. Does this mean they control the Convention and choose the delegates?

No.  The Founders made this very clear.  Once 34 states apply, Congress has no discretion whether to call a convention and no control over the delegates (see Federalist No. 85, see paragraph beginning “In opposition to the probability…”).  George Mason proposed to add the Convention of States provision to Article V because he thought Congress had too much control over the amendment process.  The Framers unanimously agreed with him.  It makes no sense to interpret Article V to give more power to Congress, when the whole point was to take power away.

This claim that Congress gets to choose the delegates also goes against common sense.  Just because one party “calls” a convention, doesn’t it mean it gets to choose the delegates for the other parties.  Think about it.  Virginia called the Philadelphia Convention of 1787.  Did it get to choose the delegates for Massachusetts?  Of course not.  Massachusetts did.  Each state chooses its own delegates; it doesn’t matter who calls the convention.  This is Agency law 101 and basic common sense.

How Do States Choose Their Delegates?

States are free to develop their own selection process for choosing their delegates—properly called “commissioners.” Historically, the most common method used was an election by a joint session of both houses of the state legislature.

Rob Natelson explains this further in his handbook (page 14).

What Happens at a Convention of States?

Commissioners from each state propose, discuss, and vote on amendments to the Constitution. All amendments the convention passes by a simple majority of the states will be sent back to the states for ratification. Each state has one vote at the Convention. If North Carolina sends seven commissioners and Nebraska sends nine, each state must caucus on each vote. North Carolina’s one vote would be cast when at least four of its commissioners agreed. Nebraska’s vote would be cast by the agreement of at least five of its commissioners.

How are Proposed Amendments Ratified?

Thirty-eight states must ratify any proposed amendments. Once states ratify, the amendments become part of the Constitution. Normally, Congress designates the state legislatures as the ratifying body—but it may choose to have the states call ratifying conventions. If so, an election by the people would be held in each state to choose delegates to the ratifying conventions.

How Do We Know How a Convention of States Will Work?

Interstate conventions were common during the Founding era, and the procedures and rules for such conventions were widely accepted. Thus, we can know how a Convention of States would operate by studying the historical record. Dr. Rob Natelson has done extensive research on this topic, and more details can be found here and here.

Is a Convention of the States Safe?

Yes. The ratification process ensures no amendments will be passed that do not reflect the desires of the American people. In addition to this, there are numerous other safeguards against a “runaway convention,” all of which can be found in the Handbook.

You can also read this page, watch this video, or read page 17 of Prof. Rob Natelson’s handbook.

If the Federal Government Ignores the Current Constitution, Why Would They Adhere to an Amended Constitution?

When the Founders wrote the Constitution, they did not anticipate modern-day politicians who take advantage of loopholes and vague phraseology. Even though it is obvious to all reasonable Americans that the federal government is violating the original meaning of the Constitution, Washington pretends otherwise, claiming the Constitution contains broad and flexible language. Amendments at a Convention of States today will be written with the current state of the federal government in mind. The language they use for these amendments will be unequivocal. There will be no doubt as to their meaning, no possibility of alternate interpretations, and no way for them to be legitimately broken. For example, the General Welfare Clause could be amended to add this phrase: “If the States have the jurisdiction to spend money on a subject matter, Congress may not tax or spend for this same subject matter.” This provision would have made it clear that Obamacare was unconstitutional.

In addition to this, it should be noted that the federal government has not violated the amendments passed in recent years. Women’s suffrage, for example, has been 100% upheld.

What is the Plan?

The COS Project’s plan is twofold:

1) We want to call a convention for a particular subject rather than a particular amendment. Instead of calling a convention for a balanced budget amendment (though we are entirely supportive of such an amendment), we want to call a convention for the purpose of limiting the power and jurisdiction of the federal government. Our approach is similar to the adoption of the Bill of Rights. We seek a package of amendments to rein in the abuses of power by all branches of the federal government.

2) We believe the grassroots is the key to calling a successful convention.  The goal is to build a political operation in a minimum of 40 states, getting 100 people to volunteer in at least 75% of the state legislative districts—3000 districts.  We believe this is very doable. The most important task is to find our 3000 District Captains. The support of the American people will ensure the success of this project.

A good overview of the plan is available here and here.

Who is Citizens for Self-Governance and How Do They Relate to the COS Project?

Citizens for Self-Governance (CSG) is the parent organization of the Convention of States Project.  They provide the resources and experience necessary to make this project a success.  The CSG mission is as follows:

“Self-governance must be restored across America.  Citizens for Self-Governance will elevate awareness and provide resources, advocacy, and education to grassroots organizations and individuals exercising their rights to govern themselves.”

CSG sees the COS Project as a means by which they can accomplish this mission.

Visit their website at www.selfgovern.com.

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