Presented at the CASB Winter Legislative Conference, Feb. 23, 2017
Constitutional Convention: A Conversation
Ken DeLay, executive director, Kathleen Sullivan, chief counsel, Jane Urschel, former deputy executive director, CASB; Brenda Morrison, partner, Engaged Public; former Sen. Pat Steadman
CASB’s executive director will lead panelists in a conversation about the fundamentals of a constitutional convention: What is a constitutional convention? Who participates? What can a convention accomplish?
A state constitutional convention is a gathering of elected delegates who propose revisions to a state constitution. In some states, a ballot measure asking the people to approve or disapprove a convention appears automatically on the ballot every 10 or 20 years. In other states, the legislature can call a convention without first receiving voter approval. In Colorado, the state legislature must receive voter approval before arranging for a convention.
Colorado Constitution, Art. XIX, Sec. 1
“The general assembly may at any time by a vote of two-thirds of the members elected to each house, recommend to the electors of the state, to vote at the next general election for or against a convention to revise, alter and amend this constitution; and if a majority of those voting on the question shall declare in favor of such convention, the general assembly shall, at its next session, provide for the calling thereof. …Said convention shall meet… and prepare such revisions, alterations or amendments to the constitution as may be deemed necessary; which shall be submitted to the electors for their ratification or rejection at an election appointed by the convention for that purpose, not less than two nor more than six months after adjournment thereof; and unless so submitted and approved by a majority of the electors voting at the election, no such revision, alteration or amendment shall take effect.”
- Two-thirds of both the House and Senate affirmatively vote to submit a measure to the electorate to approve a constitutional convention.
- During the next general election, a majority of the electorate approves the measure to hold a constitutional convention.
- During the next legislative session, the General Assembly designates the time and place of the convention, fixes the pay of its delegates and officers, and provides for the funding of the convention and associated expenses.
- Two delegates are elected to represent each of Colorado’s 35 Senate districts.
- A convention is held within 3 months after the election of delegates. During the convention, delegates prepare such revisions to the constitution as they deem necessary.
- At an election appointed by the convention (2-6 months after adjournment of the convention), a majority of the electorate must approve such revisions in order for the revisions to be ratified.
- Colorado’s legislature has voted to put a convention measure on the ballot 3 times: in 1915, 1921, and 1929.
- Voters rejected the proposed convention each time.