Close Isn’t Good Enough thomas.barclay October 2, 2013 Michael Farris Will a Convention of the States be a means of preserving our liberty or a waste of time? Naysayers (those who tear down one idea with no legitimate plan of their own) have proffered “arguments” as to why the use of Article V of the Constitution (which gives the States the full power to rein in abuses by the federal government) won’t work. Here is a recent blogger’s argument: “Proposed Amendments are not ratified by popular vote (the People), but are ratified by state legislators.” She bolsters this assertion with the statement that “ratifying proposed amendments to the U.S. Constitution” would be “decided by those same public officials who haven’t upheld the 10th Amendment or the principles of liberty.” She cites legislators, the Speaker of the House, the Lieutenant Governor, Governor, and Attorney General of her state as examples of those same public officials who would decide whether to ratify proposed amendments. She also contends that only one of the current 27 amendments was ratified by a popular vote of the people. I point out these details to illustrate that this blogger simply doesn’t know what she is talking about. Getting it partially right doesn’t count. When we are dealing with something as important as amending the Constitution, it is important to get it exactly right. Here are her clear mistakes. Governors and Attorney Generals have no vote whatsoever in any stage of the Article V process. And the Lieutenant Governor would only have a vote if, according to state law, he is the presiding officer over the Senate and there is a tie vote. He would only vote to break a tie. The only people who have a vote are state legislators. And a simple majority prevails. Likewise, she doesn’t correctly understand the rules for the alternative method for ratification. She is right in saying that 26 of the current 27 amendments have been ratified by state legislatures. But the other amendment was not ratified by a direct vote of the people, as she implies, but by specially-called ratification conventions. Just like state legislators, delegates to such conventions were elected by the people. Delegates were slated as pro-ratification or anti-ratification. So, while the votes of the people mattered, they were still electing delegates. I am sure she doesn’t know this, but there was actually one occasion when a state allowed all its voters to vote directly on a ratification issue. This was not done in conjunction with an amendment but in the original adoption of the Constitution itself. Rhode Island called a ratification convention in 1788 in which the legislature named every voter a delegate to the convention. The voters met in their respective towns and cast votes on the ratification of the Constitution. They rejected the Constitution by a wide margin. (Rhode Island ratified the Constitution two years later). Rhode Island was the only state to do this. All other states had a reasonably small number of delegates, much like the size of their state legislatures. Congress decides whether or not to send the ratification issue to state legislatures or to state conventions. But if Congress selects a ratification convention, there is nothing to prevent a state from using the Rhode Island method of naming every voter a convention delegate. Here’s my point. The blogger who opposes calling the Convention of the States simply doesn’t know what she is talking about. Again, getting it sort of right doesn’t count. Sometimes in these areas it is hard to know whom to trust. Do you trust a blogger who has no record of leadership, constitutional scholarship, or even the ability to read the plain text of Article V? Or do you trust people like Mark Levin, Robert Natelson, and me— advocates of the Convention of States, long-time constitutional lawyers and/or professors with years of fidelity to the conservative cause? If you were in court in a constitutional case, who would you want standing beside you? We have to get this right, folks. Our nation is at stake.