Is State Con-Con Phobia Justified?

Leading state constitutional scholars discuss the state constitutional convention referendums on the Nov. 2 ballots in Maryland, Michigan, Montana, and Iowa.


Friday, October 22, 2010

3:00 p.m. - 4:30 p.m.

National Press Club
529 14th Street, NW

13th Floor, Lisagor Room
Washington, D.C. 20045

On November 2, 2010, four states (Maryland, Michigan, Montana, and Iowa) have referendums on the ballot asking voters whether they want to convene a state constitutional convention (con-con). Never in U.S. history has this question been on the ballot in so many states at once, and it won’t happen again until 2090. 

The constitutions in these four states mandate that such ballot questions be put before the voters periodically, so that they can decide whether to revise their constitutions. Fourteen states give their citizens this opportunity, which is what Thomas Jefferson wanted. "The earth belongs to the living," he said, and so each generation should have "a right to choose for itself the form of government it believes most promotive of its own happiness."

The last three decades have been the most uneventful period in U.S. history for state con-cons. There have been 233 in U.S. history but only three since 1980 and only one convened as a result of a referendum mandated by a state constitution. As a result, the vast majority of living Americans, including democratic reformers and reporters, haven't witnessed a con-con in their adult life. This popular ignorance has made it easy for misinformation about con-cons to spread, especially during the days preceding a con-con election when there is virtually no accountability for what is said. 

At this event, prominent state constitutional scholars will describe the history and democratic rationale of the state con-con process, assess the quality of popular reporting on state con-cons during recent electoral cycles, and answer reporters’ questions concerning the November 2 con-con ballot referendums. With public approval of legislatures near historic lows, con-con referendums may receive more votesr this year than they have in many decades.

John Woodcock
Adjunct Professor of Political Science, Central Connecticut State University
Former democratic state representative, Connecticut
Former Vice-Chair, 2008 Connecticut con-con yes campaign

Dan Friedman
Assistant Attorney General, Maryland
General Counsel, Maryland General Assembly
Author,  “Magnificent Failure Revisited: Modern Maryland Constitutional Law from
     1967 to 1998”

G. Alan Tarr
Professor, Rutgers University-Camden
Director, Center for State Constitutional Studies
Co-editor, State Constitutions for the Twenty-First Century: The Politics of State
     Constitutional Reform

Robert Williams
Professor, Rutgers University-Camden
Associate Director, Center for State Constitutional Studies
Co-editor, State Constitutions for the Twenty-First Century: The Politics of State
     Constitutional Reform

John Dinan
Associate Professor of Political Science, Wake Forest University
Author, The American State Constitutional Tradition
Author, "The Political Dynamics of Mandatory State Constitutional Convention

J.H. Snider, President,

For a brief backgrounder on the four state con-con referendums on the ballot November 2, 2010, see
J.H. Snider and G. Alan Tarr, “A Historic Year for State Con-Cons,” Huffington Post, October 12, 2010, available at: 

For a clearinghouse of information on state con-cons ballot referendums during this election cycle, see:

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