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The New York State
Constitutional Convention Clearinghouse


Information Related to New York's Nov. 7, 2017 Constitutional Convention Referendum

 

The Purpose of the Referendum

New York's Constitution

Click to read New York’s Constitution

The unique democratic purpose of New York’s periodic constitutional convention referendum is to implement New Yorkers’ inalienable right to alter their constitution in cases where the interests of the legislature and people conflict. New York’s Constitution allows the people to exercise this right once every twenty years. To realize this democratic purpose, a convention must be substantially independent of the legislature’s control.  For example, New York’s Constitution prohibits the legislature from directly limiting a convention’s agenda. The agenda is placed in the hands of the people independently of the legislature. Democratic accountability is primarily sought by granting the people three votes over the process:

  1. to call a convention,
  2. to elect delegates to a convention, and
  3. to ratify any amendments a convention might propose for their consideration.

The people cannot ratify any constitutional change in conflict with Federal law, including the U.S. Constitution.

Flowchart of the Constitutional Convention Process

New York's Constitutional Convention Process

Featured

November 7, 2017.  New York voters reject calling a state constitutional convention by a margin of more than 50%. For an analysis of the defeat, including links to relevant news articles, see Snider, J.H., Post-Mortem: New York’s Nov. 7, 2017 Referendum To Call A Constitutional Convention, November 8, 2017.

November 3, 2017. Snider, J.H., New York’s Con Con Ballot is Biased, Gotham Gazette, November 3, 2017.

October 31, 2017.  NYPeoplesConvention.org launches Your Official Guide to the NYS Constitutional Convention Vote.

October 26, 2017.  Snider, J.H., A con-con is a check on legislative corruptionAlbany Times Union, October 26, 2017.

October 24, 2017. New Yorkers Against Corruption launches its broadcast TV & radio campaign.  See the TV ads under the Pro & Con–Video Ads menu item.

October 23, 2017. Launch of the New York State Constitutional Convention Clearinghouse’s compendium of New York constitutional convention ads.

October 23, 2017.  Snider, J.H., 11th-Hour Barrage: Why Opponents Attack The Constitutional Convention Process—Not Its SubstanceCity & State, October 23, 2017, pp. 20-1. Republished as Dueling Experts, Part II: The Pros and Cons of Con Con, October 25, 2017.

October 15, 2017.  Snider, J.H.,The Historical Antecedents for New York’s ConCon Debate, City & State, October 15, 2017.

October 12, 2017.  2nd round of campaign finance disclosures are now out.  See Mahoney, Bill, Dark money shows up in constitutional convention debate, Politico New York, October 12, 2017.

October 6, 2017.  Rockefeller Institute report, The Citizens’ Guide to the Constitutional Convention, compiles previously published articles, mostly by the Institute’s blog. Congrats to three contributors–Gerald Benjamin, Peter Galie, and Christopher Bopst–who are alumni board members of iSolon.org, this website’s parent organization.

September 28, 2017. Politico New York confirms that in the final stretch of the election none of New York’s six statewide elected officials will speak out publicly in favor of a state constitutional convention and the only one who once did so, Governor Cuomo, has long since stopped doing so for compelling political reasons.

September 26, 2017. Rockefeller Institute report summarizes One Hundred and Six Ideas for Constitutional Change.

September 20, 2017. Generation Citizen releases a well-balanced lesson plan, New York State Constitutional Convention, for 8th to 12th grade New York students. How it will actually be used remains an open question. The lesson plan is likely to be the first time New York students will have heard that they have a state constitution and a constitutional convention process to change it.

September 19, 2017. New York State Bar Association launches campaign to support calling a state constitutional convention.

September 13, 2017.  Snider, J.H., Don’t trust a Constitutional Convention? Then you don’t trust the peopleU.S.A. Today Network, September 13, 2017.  The U.S.A. Today Network also published a video version of the op-ed that they are running in their New York State papers: Trust New Yorkers? Then trust a Constitutional Convention, September 13, 2017.

September 10, 2017.  Snider, J.H., Why Foes Of A State Constitutional Convention Have The Upper HandCity & State, September 10, 2017.

August 10, 2017.  Evan Davis, head of the Committee for a Constitutional Convention, files suit against the New York State Board of Elections to obtain a court order requiring the question whether to call a state constitutional convention to be placed on the front rather on the back of the ballot this November. A summary of the suit can be found here. On August 24, a lower court judge dismissed the suit.

July 17, 2017. The New York State Constitutional Convention Clearinghouse issues a press release, picked up by the Wall Street Journal, reporting on the first campaign finance disclosure reports by committees for and against the Nov. 7, 2017 constitutional convention referendum. See also: Convention opponents assail ‘special interests’ while spending big bucks, Politico New York, August 22, 2017.

July 12, 2017.  Snider, J.H., Pension Issue Surreptitiously Drives New York ConCon Politics, City & State, July 12, 2017.

June 19, 2017.  New Yorkers Against Corruption, a NYSUT organized coalition, announces that it has put together a group of more than 100 coalition partners.  NYSUT claims: “New Yorkers Against Corruption (NYAC) is an unprecedented alliance of progressive activists, conservatives, environmentalists and labor organizations.” It is unclear how “unprecedented” is defined here, as the no coalition is arguably less diverse than the similar coalition in 1997 and no coalitions in other states with convention referendums. However, by Nov. 7, 2017, the no coalition may be able to catch up with its predecessors and peer groups.

June 17, 2017.  The New York State Bar Association endorses a yes vote on the state constitutional convention referendum. Its April 20, 2017 report on the upcoming referendum is listed below.

June 14, 2017.  The New York City Bar Association endorses a yes vote on the state constitutional convention referendum. For the explanation of the Bar’s support, see Report of the The New York City Bar Association Task Force on the New York State Constitutional Convention, June 14, 2017.

June 10, 2017. Snider, J.H., Opportunity for Reform; Educate New Yorkers on constitutional convention, Times Union, June 10, 2017. This op-ed summarizes the argument about dysfunctional constitutional convention politics in Does the World Really Belong to the Living? The Decline of the Constitutional Convention in New York and Other US States, 1776–2015Journal of American Political Thought, Volume 6 (Spring 2017).

May 30, 2017. Newsday, New York’s fourth largest newspaper, stops just short of an outright endorsement of a yes vote.

May 22, 2017.  The New York Daily News, New York’s second largest newspaper, endorses a yes vote on the state constitutional convention referendum.

April 21, 2017.  Snider, J.H., A Constitutional Right to Healthy Schools?, Gotham Gazette, April 21, 2017.

April 20, 2017.  The New York State Bar Association’s Committee on the New York State Constitution releases its Report and Recommendations Concerning Whether New Yorkers Should Approve the 2017 Ballot Question Calling for a Constitutional Convention.

April 20, 2017.  Snider, J.H., Book Review: the New York State Bar Association’s “The Making of a Modern Constitution,” It’s a Long Road to Constitutional Valhalla. Albany’s insular, mutual backscratching, public policy community led to this book’s ethical failings–but that shouldn’t deter readers.

April 12, 2017.  Snider, J.H., Does the World Really Belong to the Living? The Decline of the Constitutional Convention in New York and Other US States, 1776–2015, Journal of American Political Thought, Volume 6 (Spring 2017). During the spring and summer of 2015, this article was widely distributed among local opinion leaders, helping to jumpstart and frame the state constitutional convention debate in New York State.

March 27, 2017.  League of Women Voters of New York State Announces Support for 2017 Constitutional Convention Ballot Question. This is noteworthy, as it is the first time in decades that a state chapter has endorsed voting yes on a periodic state constitutional convention referendum.

March 10, 2017.  Snider, J.H., Needed: Fresh Eyes to Improve New York’s Constitution (Part II)Gotham Gazette, March 10, 2017.

March 3, 2017.  Snider, J.H., Needed: Fresh Eyes to Improve New York’s Constitution–Part 1Gotham Gazette, March 3, 2017.

February 10, 2017.  The Independent Democratic Conference, a coalition of legislators in the New York State Assembly, announces that it will work with unions and other groups to oppose the call for a state constitutional convention.  See the release of its report, Union Strong, as well as the accompanying press release, Unions and Independent Democratic Conference members stand together against national right-to-work legislation and release four-point protection plan for New York State workers.

January 17, 2017.  Snider, J.H., Governor Cuomo Conspicuously Omits New York’s Upcoming Concon Referendum in his State of the State Address, It’s a Long Road to Constitutional Valhalla.

January 7, 2017.  Committee for a Constitutional Convention formed to support a yes vote on calling a state constitutional convention.

January 7, 2017.  Conservative Party of New York State passes a resolution and issues a press release calling on voters to reject the ballot question calling for a Constitutional Convention.

December 5, 2016.  Snider, J.H., New York Needs a Political Primer on the State Constitutional Convention Referendum, Gotham Gazette.  This is a reprint in a more accessible format of the introductory essay to the symposium cited below.

December 1, 2016.  The New York State League of Women Voters provides materials to its local chapters on the upcoming referendum. The State League is not taking a pro or con position on the referendum.

November 28, 2016.  Symposium on The Politics of State Constitutional Reform, Law and Courts Section of the American Political Science Association, Fall 2016 Issue.  Essays by J.H. Snider, Sanford Levinson, John Dinan, and Carol Weissert based on their short course presentations (see August 31, 2016 entry below).

November 17, 2016.  Snider, J.H., The Best Delegate Election Process for a New York Constitutional ConventionGotham Gazette, November 17, 2016.

November 15, 2016.  New York’s Broken Constitution: The Governance Crisis and the Path to Renewed Greatness, SUNY Press. Congratulations to the three co-editors of this book–Gerald Benjamin, Peter Galie, and Christopher Bopst–who have served as board members of iSolon.org, the parent organization of The New York State Constitutional Convention Clearinghouse.

September 12, 2016.  At its annual meeting, Citizens Union, New York’s oldest good government group, launches its campaign for a yes vote on  New York’s upcoming state constitutional convention referendum.

August 31, 2016.  J.H. Snider presents a short course, A Political Primer on the Periodic State Constitutional Convention Referendum, at the 2016 Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association, Philadelphia Convention Center, 2:00 pm to 6:00 pm.  The course covers all fourteen states with the periodic state constitutional convention referendum, not just New York State.  Part of the course includes TV documentaries and ads, which can be found here.

August 3, 2016.  The New York State Bar Association’s Committee on the New York State Constitutoin releases its report (approved by the Bar Association on Nov. 5, 2016) on the conservation article (Article XIV) in New York State’s Constitution.

June 19, 2016.  During an interview with the New York Times after the 2016 state legislative session ended, Governor Andrew Cuomo blames the legislature for his failure to get key ethics reforms passed: “Mr. Cuomo added that the only way to solve the problem was a constitutional convention. ‘The people are going to have to do it,’ he said.”

June 11, 2016.  Bill Samuels Launches Campaign to Innovate and Reform Albany with Radio Series on 2017 Constitution Vote.

May 16, 2016.  WCNY launches 6-part series on potential issues a New York State constitutional convention could address.  J.H. Snider proposed this documentary to iSolon.org Board Member Gerald Benjamin, who set up a meeting to discuss it with the Rockefeller Institute’s Bob Bullock on April 16, 2015.

March 25, 2016.  Can a NYS Constitutional Convention Strengthen Government Ethics? at Albany Law School.  A two-and-a-half hour discussion by some of New York’s  leading thinkers on this question.  The video is here.

March 24, 2016.  Snider, J.H., New York’s Coming ConCon Battle, Gotham Gazette, March 24, 2016.

March 3, 2016.  The New York Public Interest Group (NYPIRG) and the League of Women Voters of New York State release A Brief Guide to the New York State Constitutional Convention.  It includes a fun and informative graphic road map describing the state constitutional convention process.

January 28, 2016.  Citizens Union announces its support for a constitutional convention, including setting up a coalition of supporters.

January 19, 2016. Snider, J.H. Cuomo’s Preparatory Commission Should Prioritize Fixing ConCon Process, Gotham Gazette.

January 13, 2016.  In his State of the State address to the New York Legislature, Governor Cuomo endorses convening a state constitutional convention (listen to 128:46 to 129:23). In the accompanying policy blueprint, he also endorses convening a preparatory commission: “The Governor will invest $1 million to create an expert, non-partisan commission to develop a blueprint for a convention.”

December 7, 2015.  Rockefeller Institute and New York State Bar Association host constitutional convention “boot camp.”

November 23, 2015.   Citizens Union, Reinvent Albany, New York Public Interest Group (NYPIRG), League of Women Voters of New York State, and other good government groups jointly write to Governor Andrew Cuomo asking him to reform the constitutional convention delegate selection process.

November 22, 2015.  Snider, J.H., Board, independent of Legislature, key to constitution fixAlbany Times Union.

November 13, 2015.  New York State Bar Association Calls on State Government to Prepare Now for Statewide Vote on State Constitution in 2017, New York State Bar Association Press Release.  See video below and report that accompanies the press release.

October 13, 2015.  New York City Bar Association Convenes Task Force on New York State Constitutional Convention, New York City Bar Association Press Release..

September 24, 2015.  “Brainstorming a Public History and Civic Participation Agenda for New York’s Nov. 2017 Constitutional Convention Referendum.”  iSolon.org conference hosted at the New York Council for the Humanities, Manhattan.  Covered in the New York History Blog.

September 14, 2015.  Citizen Groups Create Multiyear Campaign to Promote Awareness of the 2017 NYS Constitutional Convention Vote, Rockefeller Institute Press Release, September 14, 2015.

August 24, 2015.  Snider, J.H., Convention a basic N.Y. right, Albany Times Union.

July 24, 2015.  New York State Bar Association President Miranda Forms Committee To Study NYS Constitution, New York State Bar Association Press Release.  See video below that accompanies the press release.

July 1, 2015.  Editorial, New York can still fix this, Albany Times Union.

June 4, 2015.  Snider, J.H., Preparing for New York’s Next Constitutional Convention Referendum, Gotham Gazette.

Constitutional Convention Milestones

Constitutional Convention Milestones

May 24, 2017. The New York State Board of Elections posts on its public website the draft text, 2017 Proposed Constitutional Amendments. Note that the date is not included on the website so it had to be gotten via a request to the Board of Elections Public Information Office.

July 17, 2017. Campaign finance committee reports were due at the New York State Board of Elections. Note that the Board of Elections refuses to publish on its website the date and time that 1) committees submitted their reports, and 2) the date and time their reports were posted. All that it publishes is the date and time a citizen requests this information. Internally, it does keep the published dates but not times.

August 2, 2017. The New York State Board of Elections posts on its public website the final text and ballot position of 2017 Ballot Proposal Certification.  The ballot position is the subject of a lawsuit filed August 10, 2017, which was granted a hearing on August 17, 2017.

November 7, 2017.  As mandated by New York’s Constitution, New Yorkers vote on whether to convene a state constitutional convention.

By July 1, 2017.  As mandated by New York’s Constitution, if New Yorkers approve a convention, the New York Assembly must pass an act placing the referendum on the ballot.  This presumably must be done by the end of the Assembly’s regular session, hence the by July 1, 2017 date, with the “by” signifying that this date is merely an approximation.

November 6, 2018.  As mandated by New York’s Constitution, if New Yorkers approve a convention, New Yorkers will elect delegates at the next general election, hence the November 6, 2018 date.

April 2, 2019. As mandated by New York’s Constitution, if New Yorkers approve a convention, the convention will convene on the first Tuesday in April following the election of delegates, hence the April 2, 2019 date.

November 5, 2019.  This is a guess estimate for the date the convention’s proposals would be voted on by the public.  The New York Constitution leaves it up to the convention to specify when its proposals will be placed on the ballot for popular ratification.  Passed experience suggests it will be the next general election, hence the November 5, 2019 date.

Source: New York Public Library.
Note: This website was the first to use this image in relation to New York’s upcoming constitutional convention referendum. It has since been widely used for that purpose. In 2015, the editor of this website applied for a fellowship at the New York Public Library to research this and other state constitutional convention items in the Library’s collection.

July 24, 2015 video press release by the president of the New York State Bar Association announcing the creation of a committee to study the New York State Constitution.

November 13, 2015 video press release by the president of the New York State Bar Association announcing the Bar’s unanimous approval of a report calling for the establishment of a New York State preparatory commission on a constitutional convention. 

Countdown until the referendum

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J.H. Snider’s Op-Eds

J.H. Snider’s Blog

The Advocacy Community’s Culture of “Plagiarism”: A Case Study of New York’s Nov. 7, 2017 State Constitutional Convention Referendum

Published in “It’s a Long Way to Constitutional Valhalla,” November 9, 2017

Post-Mortem: New York’s Nov. 7, 2017 Referendum To Call A Constitutional Convention

Published in It’s a Long Road to Constitutional Valhalla, November 8, 2017

Final NewYorkConCon.info Newsletter

Published in It’s a Long Road to Constitutional Valhalla, November 8, 2017

New York’s Con Con Ballot is Biased

Published in the Gotham Gazette, November 3, 2017

A con-con is a check on legislative corruption

Published in Albany Times Union, October 26, 2017

NewYorkConCon.info Reader Survey Results

Published in It’s a Long Road to Constitutional Valhalla, October 24, 2017

NewYorkConCon.info October Newsletter

Published in “It’s a Long Road to Constitutional Valhalla,” October 23, 2017

11th Hour Barrage: Why Opponents Attack The Constitutional Convention Process—Not Its Substance

Published in City & State, October 23, 2017

The Historical Antecedents for New York’s Con Con Debate

Published in City & State, October 15, 2017

Don’t trust a Constitutional Convention? Then you don’t trust the people

Published in the U.S.A. Today Network, September 13, 2017

Why Foes of a State Constitutional Convention Have The Upper Hand

Published in City & State, September 13, 2017

NewYorkConCon.info Inaugural Newsletter

Published in “It’s a long road to constitutional Valhalla,” Sept. 5, 2017

No Campaign On Nov. 7 State ConCon Referendum Raises Three Times More Money Than Yes Campaign

Press release by The New York State Constitutional Convention Clearinghouse, July 17, 2017

Pension Issue Surreptitiously Drives New York ConCon Politics

Published in City & State, July 12, 2017

Opportunity for Reform: Educate New Yorkers on constitutional convention

Published in Times Union (Sunday print edition), June 11, 2017

A Constitutional Right to Healthy Schools?

Published in the Gotham Gazette, April 21, 2017

Book Review: The New York State Bar Association’s “Making a Modern Constitution”

Published in “It’s a long road to constitutional Valhalla,” April 20, 2017

Needed: Fresh Eyes to Improve New York’s Constitution–Part II

Published in the Gotham Gazette, March 10, 2017

Needed: Fresh Eyes to Improve New York’s Constitution–Part 1

Published in the Gotham Gazette, March 3, 2017

Governor Cuomo Conspicuously Omits New York’s Upcoming Concon Referendum in his State of the State Address

Published in “It’s a long road to constitutional Valhalla,” January 17, 2017

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Percentage of Americans who know they have a state constitution

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Percent in Northeast, including New York, who know they have a state constitution

Agave Americana, popularly known as the American Century Plant, is a plant that flowers once every 10 to 30 years in perpetuity via clone daughter plants. Its periodic and beautiful flowering is symbolic of New York’s periodic state constitutional convention referendum. A consequence of the plant’s flowering  so infrequently is that people forget it’s a flowering plant by the time it next flowers.

Historical Context

A 240-year history of the state constitutional convention framed for New Yorkers.

Snider, J.H., Does the World Really Belong to the Living? The Decline of the Constitutional Convention in New York and Other US States, 1776–2015, Journal of American Political Thought 6, no. 2 (Spring 2017): 256-293.

New York's motto, Excelsior, means "ever upward," which suggests New York's history of and faith in progress.
New York’s motto, Excelsior, means “ever upward,” which suggests New York’s history of and faith in progress.
[A] Cuomo Administration [will] work to enact into law important reforms at a constitutional convention including an overhaul of our redistricting process, ethics enforcement, and succession rules, among others…. A new constitutional convention could be the vehicle for critical reforms to our State government.

 Andrew Cuomo, New York Governor, Cuomo 2010 Campaign

It has been fifty years since we had a constitutional convention. All too often, public opinion is not reflected in legislative action in Albany. A constitutional convention that is properly held – with independent, non-elected official delegates – could make real change and reengage the public. We need a citizen-government relationship reboot. This is the time to do it and the constitutional convention could be the vehicle to do it.

 Andrew Cuomo, New York Governor, 2016 State-of-the-State Speech

Convene a Constitutional Commission
The New York Constitution provides that, every 20 years, New Yorkers must vote by referendum on whether to hold a convention to amend the State constitution. The next referendum will take place in 2017, and Governor Cuomo believes a constitutional convention offers voters the opportunity to achieve lasting reform in Albany. The Governor will invest $1 million to create an expert, non-partisan commission to develop a blueprint for a convention. The commission will also be authorized to recommend fixes to the current convention delegate selection process, which experts agree is flawed.

 Andrew Cuomo, New York Governor, 2016 Agenda

At the general election to be held in the year nineteen hundred fifty-seven, and every twentieth year thereafter, and also at such times as the legislature may by law provide, the question “Shall there be a convention to revise the constitution and amend the same?” shall be submitted to and decided by the electors of the state; and in case a majority of the electors voting thereon shall decide in favor of a convention for such purpose, the electors of every senate district of the state, as then organized, shall elect three delegates at the next ensuing general election, and the electors of the state voting at the same election shall elect fifteen delegates-at-large. The delegates so elected shall convene at the capitol on the first Tuesday of April next ensuing after their election, and shall continue their session until the business of such convention shall have been completed. Every delegate shall receive for his or her services the same compensation as shall then be annually payable to the members of the assembly and be reimbursed for actual traveling expenses, while the convention is in session, to the extent that a member of the assembly would then be entitled thereto in the case of a session of the legislature. A majority of the convention shall constitute a quorum for the transaction of business, and no amendment to the constitution shall be submitted for approval to the electors as hereinafter provided, unless by the assent of a majority of all the delegates elected to the convention, the ayes and noes being entered on the journal to be kept. The convention shall have the power to appoint such officers, employees and assistants as it may deem necessary, and fix their compensation and to provide for the printing of its documents, journal, proceedings and other expenses of said convention. The convention shall determine the rules of its own proceedings, choose its own officers, and be the judge of the election, returns and qualifications of its members. In case of a vacancy, by death, resignation or other cause, of any district delegate elected to the convention, such vacancy shall be filled by a vote of the remaining delegates representing the district in which such vacancy occurs. If such vacancy occurs in the office of a delegate-at-large, such vacancy shall be filled by a vote of the remaining delegates-at-large. Any proposed constitution or constitutional amendment which shall have been adopted by such convention, shall be submitted to a vote of the electors of the state at the time and in the manner provided by such convention, at an election which shall be held not less than six weeks after the adjournment of such convention. Upon the approval of such constitution or constitutional amendments, in the manner provided in the last preceding section, such constitution or constitutional amendment, shall go into effect on the first day of January next after such approval.

–New York Constitution, Article XIX, §2