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Right-Wing Attempt to Outlaw Election Fails

Right-wing favorite, Governor Rick Snyder of Michigan, just vetoed an effort to outlaw an election of Delegates to an Article V Convention to propose amendments to the US Constitution. Over the last 50 years there have been efforts to start and resist state applications for an Article V Convention, which requires the states to cross a numerical threshold of two-thirds (34) states that apply for an Article V Convention. Many believe the threshold has been crossed already and Congress refuses to count these applications because they would need to acknowledge their duty to call the convention. To insure passage of an amendment that would not otherwise gain so much support, groups on the right end of the political spectrum, like ALEC and the Goldwater Institute, have sought to restrict and limit the scope of the Convention to their agenda rather than let the Delegates debate and propose freely like any legislators of Congress or states. This week that effort slammed in to a brick wall as a Tea Party favorite vetoed the cancellation of an election of Delegates.

The Governor’s veto letter correctly stated:

Under the federal constitution, the decision how to appoint a constitutional delegation is left to the judgment of the individual states. There are a number of different ways that such a decision could be made, allowing for possibilities such as a direct vote of the people or a vote of the entire legislature. … Because the legislative leaders are not elected by the entire state, but instead by only the voters within their individual districts, a constitutional delegation comprised primarily of persons selected only by the legislative quadrant would not give a full representative voice to all Michiganders. By contrast, selecting delegates by a direct vote of the people or by a vote of the entire legislature would ensure that all Michiganders have a say in defining the constitutional delegation.

However we have seen this same kind of legislation pass in FL, UT, IN, TN and GA in the last year. There is an effort that is hell bent on absolute manipulation of Delegates from state legislatures.

All of the delegates would be required to swear an oath to support the constitutions of both the United States and Florida, and abide by all the instructions of the [State] Legislature. Failing to do to that could mean living life as a convicted felon. If a delegate does not follow those instructions [from state legislatures], their vote would be voided and their appointment to the convention would be forfeited. They also could be charged with a third-degree felony.

Jon Huizer of National Convention, PBC filed a petition with the Federal Elections Commission to include Delegate in the definition of Federal offices in order to insure that those Delegates would be free of that kind of manipulation. They would serve as a freely deliberating representative of the people, searching for solutions without the yoke of the Tea Party agenda hanging around their necks.

The main problem with state applications specifying exact language is the objection that a convention called to consider a predetermined amendment would, in effect, become part of the ratifying process. …an attempt by the various State legislatures to force Congress to call a convention which can only act mechanically to approve or disapprove a specific amendment. The attempt is to make the convention merely an initial step in the ratifying process instead of a deliberative meeting to seek out solutions to a problem. The word ‘propose’ cannot be stretched to mean ‘ratify’. The Congress cannot properly accept and become part of any prepackaged effort to short cut the amendment process.
~ Senator Robert F. Kennedy

Recently the Convention of States group led by Tea Party Patriot founder Mark Meckler and right-wing radio talk show host, Mark Levin stated a petition to oppose the effort of the National Convention, PBC by peddling an online petition to gain support for their opposition to the FEC action by claiming online that Such a measure would bring convention delegates under the control of Washington, D.C.” and completely mischaracterizing the purpose of the rule change. The suggested definition change is about empowering the delegate to act think, deliberate, and propose ideas freely just like the office of a member of Congress or state legislator. It is amazing that the first line of attack is to blame National Convention, PBC for trying to manipulate Delegates, when the goal is to stop anyone from trying to manipulate Delegates. At least the right concedes the point that manipulation is undesirable.

In the past there have been nearly 40 federal amendatory conventions, for the creation of each state Constitution and the reconstruction conventions after the Civil War. You can see the Georgia convention was overseen by the US military as well so this is not a state action, it is indeed federal. When legislatures are participating in the Article V process, it does not require the Governor’s signature because it is not legislation per se, the legislatures (one branch of the state governments) are participating in a federal process. These Delegates were always elected as historical practice. Congress created the oath for that office seen here:

Do you and each of you solemnly swear that you will support the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that you take this obligation freely without any mental reservation of purpose or evasion and that you will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office of Delegate to the Constitutional Convention on which you are about to enter?

The FEC also uses the definitions in Federal Election Law such as:
(2) the term ‘election’ means …
(E) the election of delegates to a constitutional convention for proposing amendments to the Constitution of the United States or of any State;”

Why do we see this aggressive push to control the Delegates of an Article V Convention?  Because the states have passed the threshold and we expect to have an official tabulation of state applications completed soon. This month the Assembly of State Legislatures met in Washington DC and their own Judiciary Committee reported they have 36 states (34 required) on record with applications to Congress for a convention. These states include AL, AK, AZ, AR, CA, CO, CT, GA, HI, ID, IL, IN, LA, ME, MD, MA, MI, MN, MO, NH, NJ, NM, NC, OH, OK, OR, RI, SC, TX, UT, VT, WA, WV, WI

Also Michigan has already determined there are enough applications from states to call the convention now.

The Congressional Research Service is also taking the position that they may be enough applications from state legislatures on record if Congress would only count them.

“the legislatures of Ohio, in November 2013, and Michigan, in March 2014, applied to Congress for an Article V Convention to consider a balanced federal budget amendment; these are the first new state applications since 1982 and are also the 33rd and 34th applications for the balanced budget amendment convention. If all 32 previous related state applications are valid, it is arguable that the constitutional requirement for requests from two-thirds of the states has been met, and that Congress should consider calling a convention.”
The Article V Convention to Propose Constitutional Amendments: 
Contemporary Issues for Congress 
Thomas H. Neale 
Specialist in American National Government

The veto by Governor Rick Snyder could not have come at a worse time for those who wish to hijack the process. For those that hoped to get away with it, they must be replaced because they have proven, by their own actions, they are an enemy of democracy and the American way.

Our nation will correct our problems or we will perish, it is that simple.  Be confident that as Americans we will rise to the occasion as we have done so many times before. The choice that is unfolding before us will be a battle of ideas more than candidates. If clean elections means more to the People than a Balanced Budget Amendment, that is the kind of assembly the People will choose. It will seek solutions to various problems and it won’t be confined by an inflexible system.  The assembly can propose a change to the system to accommodate the alteration holistically. The spirit of the “New World” will begin again with a blank sheet of paper. The United States will be the modern standard of democracy in the 21st century that we were at the birth of our nation.

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Daniel Marks

Daniel Marks