A recent statewide poll revealed that over two-thirds of likely Arkansas voters--including 80 percent of Republicans, 54 percent of Democrats, and 65 percent of "others"--want Arkansas to join with other states in triggering a state-led convention to propose constitutional amendments to restrain Washington, D.C.
The states have this power under Article V of our Constitution, but they have yet to use it. Never before have the necessary 34 states agreed that amendments were needed on a particular topic. Today, however, with Washington mired in partisan politics and usurping more and more of the states' policymaking authority, the states' common ground is the understanding that real reform must come from outside the beltway.
This recent poll indicates that voters are united by this understanding as well.
Last week the Arkansas Senate passed my resolution, SJR3, which would add Arkansas to the list of states ready to meet and propose amendments to rein in Washington. I am convinced that the Article V Convention of States process is our last, best hope to restore a responsible, accountable federal government.
Sadly, those who are misinformed about Article V are doing their best to undermine this constitutional solution. They rehash the same tired old arguments over and over again, year after year, with zero factual, legal, or historical evidence to support them. Here are three of their favorites:
• An Article V Convention would be a "new constitutional convention" where delegates could design a whole new government.
• No one knows how an Article V Convention would work; it's a completely unknown, untested process.
• The Founding Fathers were actually rogue agents who abused their authority and crafted an illegitimate Constitution at a "runaway convention" in 1787.
The late Justice Antonin Scalia once compared a certain awful--but persistent--legal framework to "some ghoul in a late-night horror movie that repeatedly sits up in his grave and shuffles abroad, after being repeatedly killed and buried." This is an apt description of each of the arguments made by Convention of States opponents. Each is soundly refuted by available facts, precedents, and historical data:
Article V clearly and explicitly outlines two processes for "proposing amendments" to "this Constitution"--one process for Congress to use, and another for the states to use to bypass Congress. It does not prescribe any process for a "new constitutional convention."
There are scores of factual precedents for interstate conventions in our nation's history which have been well-documented and studied. Moreover, there are dozens of cases in which courts have interpreted and explained various aspects of Article V. (You can read about this in Professor Robert Natelson's new book, The Law of Article V). State legislatures appoint and control the delegates that represent them at the convention on a one-state, one-vote basis.
We can read for ourselves the instructions the states gave their commissioners to the 1787 Constitutional Convention. It was not a "runaway convention." The founders acted within their authority, as one would have expected from men of their character.
So why do the disproven claims continue to be made?
One of the most appalling trends in our society today is the willingness to believe things people say without regard for what the evidence says. In some situations, there is little evidence to be found, which makes it impossible for an accused to definitively disprove the allegations against him or her.
But this public debate on the Convention of States is different. We do have evidence that disproves the claims made by opponents. We have disproven them. To accept our opponents' arguments anyway is to turn one's back on truth and reason.
To the good people of Arkansas, I make this appeal: If you understand that the federal government must be restrained from the outside, and if you believe that decisions should be made based on facts, evidence, and reason, support the Convention of States Project, and ask your state representatives to pass SJR3.
State Sen. Gary Stubblefield of Branch represents District 6 in the Arkansas Senate.
Editorial on 02/07/2019
Print Headline: Restrain D.C.