Two-hundred-and-thirty-three years later, advocates are calling on the New York state Legislature to rescind a call for a constitutional convention over a concern that constitutional rights could be rolled back.
Susan Lerner, executive director of Common Cause NY, told Capital Tonight that a 1789 New York state resolution calling for a federal constitutional convention to add the Bill of Rights to the document could be used to roll back rights and powers of the federal government in the 21st Century.
Included in Article V of the Constitution are two ways to change the founding document — the first being the amendment process by passing it through Congress and having two-thirds of the states ratify it — the other being the calling of a constitutional convention by two-thirds of the states.
The second option has never been used before. Lerner argues that “opening up the federal constitution right now would be opening up Pandora’s box.”
Lerner said advocates for a constitutional convention are trying to count New York’s 233-year-old call for a convention in their tally. Lerner said there is a desire among legislators to pass a resolution backed by state Sen. Liz Krueger and Assemblyman Kenneth Zebrowski that would rescind New York’s call. The resolution passed the Senate, but did not pass the Assembly.
Last month, the Supreme Court announced it will take up a North Carolina case that deals with the independent state legislature theory. The legal theory says that state legislatures have the near-unanimous power to regulate federal elections, which could allow state legislatures to even violate their own state constitutions. Lerner said this theory “flies in the face of decades, if not centuries, of interpretation of the U.S. Constitution” and said this could block voters from exercising their right.