Constitutional Convention vote on ballot

— Michigan voters will have one more ballot issue, this one coming around once every 16 years, to cast a vote for or against during an already hectic Nov. 2 gubernatorial election.

Voters will have a choice to either accept or reject a Constitutional Convention through Proposal 10-1, which states “Shall a convention of elected delegates be convened in 2011 to draft a general revision of the State Constitution for presentation to the state’s voters for their approval or rejection?”

The current state Constitution, adopted in 1963, calls on the convention vote every 16 years. The proposal, in the event of a no vote, would automatically die until a new vote in 2026. If voters accepted the idea of a Constitutional Convention — which hasn’t been approved since 1962 and was soundly defeated by majority votes in 1978 (76.7 percent voted no) and 1994 (72 percent voted no) — partisan primaries for 148 delegate positions (one from each Senate and state Senate and state House district) would take place on Feb. 22, 2011, with victors squaring off during a May 3 election.

State legislators currently in office are precluded from becoming a Constitutional Convention delegate, according to the state’s current Constitution.

Delegates would gather no later than Oct. 4 in Lansing to discuss the constitution with the new secretary of state in charge of the delegates until a president is chosen from the group. Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land has stated in proposed legislation that she would like to convene the delegates at noon July 12, 2011.

The delegates chosen during the vote would then deliberate the constitution during the Constitution Convention, with any proposed changes or new constitution needing to receive a unanimous vote from the convention’s 148 delegates. Voters would then decide on proposed amendments no more than 90 days following adjournment of the convention. If no changes are made at the convention, no vote would occur.

Land said with the possibility that a Constitutional Convention may occur, a set of guidelines is needed in place if approval comes from voters in November, such as pushing forward the delegation’s first meeting to July 2011, scheduling possible election dates and calling on the governor to appoint new delegates from the same district and party should one resign or be voted our by a two-thirds delegation vote, making the term of office for delegates coincide with the convention, compensation for travel expenses during the one time per week the convention is in session and placing delegates and committees under Michigan’s Campaign Finance Act, which allows delegates to be lobbied as other public officials.

While no Constitutional Conventions have occurred in Michigan since 1963, 31 amendments to the state’s Constitution have been made over the same 37-year period. Montana, Iowa and Maryland voters will also decide in November whether or not to hold a Constitutional Convention in their states.

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