No one is talking about the next Constitutional Convention — that arcane process by which states can bypass Congress to create new amendments for our nation’s most important document.
No one, that is, except state legislatures — 43 of them — who have filed or passed or are considering legislation requesting one.
Some explanation may be in order.
Article V of the US Constitution describes the amendment process, allowing just two ways in which they may be altered. The first, more conventional method, requires a two-thirds vote from both houses of Congress, at which time the proposed amendment must be ratified by three-fourths of the states. That is the only method that has ever been used since 1789, when the Constitution kicked in as the law of the land.
The other method is the states’ check against this federal power, and it sort of works in reverse: If two-thirds of the states — that’s 33 of them — agree to hold a Constitutional Convention, they can write and ratify amendments right there, without the need for Congressional approval, as long as three-quarters of the states agree — that’s 38.
Since 2014, 15 state legislatures have already written and passed what is known as the “Convention of States application.” Eleven of these bills have passed since Donald Trump was elected in 2016. All of them are red states Trump.
Twenty-one more states are weighing this legislation right now. This would be enough to trigger a new convention, as there is no time limit on the Convention of States application. Just 18 more need to pass it, and we will have yet another historical first.
Naturally, North Carolina has a House bill sponsored by Republican leadership: House Majority Leader John Bell, House Whip Jon Hardister, Rep. Dennis Riddle from Alamance County and Rep. Jason Saine of Lincoln County. It passed its first reading last week.
It’s possible that the next Constitutional Convention is not a Republican plot to wrest control of the nation before the party becomes unable to win an election — remember, a Republican presidential candidate has won the majority vote only twice since 1988; both were Bushes.
There are a number of blue and purple states interested as well. Washington, Virginia, Vermont, Maine and New Jersey all have applications in the pipeline this year. That’s because Congressional term limits have become the biggest rallying cry for the new convention.
And it is time to address gaps in our governing document that have emerged as American life has gotten more complex — the last time a new amendment was added was 1971, the 26th, which lowered the voting age from 21 to 18.
But after Trump’s Insurrection, it’s hard not see this as another coup attempt by the right, another method of circumventing the will of American voters to further their dying agenda.