By Gene Binder
We’re not gamblers. Maybe a lottery ticket here and there, but we wouldn’t bet the rent money or our paycheck on a long shot.
That’s why we recommend that people vote “no” on holding a constitutional convention when they turn over their ballots to vote on the propositions on Election Day. There is a possibility that good things could come from such a convention, but bad things are also possible. It’s a crapshoot.
Every 20 years, New Yorkers are given the choice of holding — or not holding — a constitutional convention. If the electorate votes to hold one next Tuesday, we will find the names of people running to be delegates to the convention on our 2018 ballots. The ones who are elected will convene, and the public will be able to vote on the amendments they propose in an election, which will take place after the convention concludes business.
The rules for how the convention will operate will be determined by the legislature and the convention itself. For example, we might find ourselves eventually looking at a ballot which contains 20 separate proposed amendments, or one large proposed amendment which contains 20 unrelated changes. It is quite possible that we could find something the public opposes, linked with something popular.
No one can tell you what will come out of the convention, or how it will be packaged.
No one can give you an informed prediction of what the composition of the delegates to the convention will look like. Both professional politicians and non-politicians who want to champion an issue, or several issues, will seek to be delegates. We can be sure money will try to influence the outcome.
We can’t be sure how much money will enter the picture, or whose money it will be. It is more likely that professional politicians will make up the majority of the delegates than that an outpouring of ordinary citizens who haven’t been involved in politics will prevail.
People all over the political spectrum are divided over this vote. It really is a case of politics making strange bedfellows. There are conservatives who want a convention, and there are conservatives who don’t want one. The same is true for progressives and centrists.
You can also find splits amongst groups which take the same side on issues. Uncertainty shuffles the deck.
Concerned Citizens for Change is unhappy and frustrated with the New York state legislature because the Republicans who control the state senate will not let progressive bills come up for a vote. Many of those bills are supported by a majority of New Yorkers and routinely pass the Assembly.
We can understand the desire to do an end run around the legislation, but a constitutional convention has the potential to take things we care about out of the New York state constitution, and put things we see as negatives in it.
No matter where you stand on the political spectrum, a constitutional convention has the potential to advance or set back what you hold dear.
How much do you like to gamble?
The author is a member of the steering committee for Concerned Citizens for Change.