On State Issue 1

Every 20 years the Ohio voters are required to determine whether a Constitutional convention is necessary to revise the state constitution. The language of the Constitution is as follows:

“At the general election to be held in the year one thousand nine hundred and thirty-two, and in each twentieth year thereafter, the question: ‘Shall there be a convention to revise, alter, or amend the constitution[,]’ shall be submitted to the electors of the state; and in case a majority of the electors, voting for and against the calling of a convention, shall decide in favor of a convention, the general assembly, at its next session, shall provide, by law, for the election of delegates, and the assembling of such convention, as is provided in the preceding section; but no amendment of this constitution, agreed upon by any convention assembled in pursuance of this article, shall take effect, until the same shall have been submitted to the electors of the state, and adopted by a majority of those voting thereon.”

The Ohio Liberty Coalition was asked to provide an analysis of the question: Shall there be a convention to revise, alter, or amend the Ohio Constitution.

The Ohio Constitution requires this issue to be placed on the ballot every 20 years. The voters of Ohio have said “NO” to this provision every time it has been voted on since 1912. If this provision passes, it will necessitate the nomination and election of nearly 100 delegates to a constitutional convention. The delegates will propose changes to the Ohio Constitution. The proposed changes will then be presented to Ohio voters for their approval or rejection. Voters for nearly century have recognized that such an extreme procedure as a constitutional convention is unwarranted. There are more efficient methods of amending the constitution, for example, through either the popular or legislative initiative process. Further, the constitution will be thoroughly reviewed soon. The Ohio legislature has established a commission, which will meet in November 2012 and offer a report of recommendations to the legislature in January on ways to improve the constitution. Any changes would have to be approved later by voters.

There are two fundamental questions underlying a voting decision on this issue:

(1) Is there a need for major reform and revision of the Ohio Constitution?

(2) Is a constitutional convention the best way to make revisions?

The answer to both questions is “no.” Our present constitution, though not perfect, well serves the citizens of Ohio. There is no strong popular consensus in favor an expensive, contentious constitutional convention. And there are other less severe ways to make what changes are needed—the initiative process continues to work well and the legislature’s scheduled constitutional review will suffice to consider what changes truly need to be made. There simply is no compelling reason to call a constitutional convention, especially given the existing tight economy and the need for legislative belt-tightening.

In a letter to Coalition Board President Tom Zawistowskiand, who also is President of Portage Ohio Tea Party, Edward Emsweller, Legal Counsel for the Coalition, further explained why the State Issue 1 is not a good idea.

Since either “good” or “bad” amendments may be proposed through a constitutional convention, the issue is not the amendments themselves, but rather whether the Article 16, Section 3 (calling of a constitutional convention) method is the best means to effect revisions to the Constitution. The calling of a constitutional convention necessitates a separate election of delegates, requiring an expense not involved in the initiative processes. The expense of this method is its primary negative.

Moreover, such an expense is unwarranted because of a review of the Constitution to take place later this year. In June 2011, the Ohio legislature established the Ohio Constitutional Modernization Commission, a bipartisan group of 12 legislative members and 20 non-legislative members who will serve at least two years. The commission is to meet in November and offer the legislature recommendations for improving the constitution. Any changes would have to be approved later by voters.

If effective, Ohio Constitutional Modernization Commission should be able to solve many of the concerns raised by proponents of Issue 1 are problems like correcting conflicting, outdated and unreasonable laws.

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