A New Constitutional Convention?

Over at Balkinization, Sandy Levinson points out that residents of Maryland will have the opportunity this fall to vote on a new constitutional convention for the state. Evidently a number of US States (Levinson mentions New York and implies there are others) have a similar clause allowing the public to vote on a new constitutional convention once per generation.

Levinson is in favor of a new constitution for Maryland, and I’m inclined to agree. The underlying WaPo article provides a much clearer justification than the blog post. In a nutshell, Maryland’s Constitution dates to the Reconstruction era, includes a vast number of amendments, some dealing with issues that can only be described as minutiae, and spans a word count nearly eight times that of the combined US Constitution + Bill of Rights. Levinson uses this particular issue as a springboard  for a discussion of his belief that states have proven they require an fairly robust federal government to remain viable. I think that perhaps he overreaches here — the problems with, say, California’s Constitution, or New York’s, are fairly unique. The former is crippled by the ballot initiative system, while the latter suffers from gridlock due to disproportionate representation of its less populous regions.

Though Maryland’s Constitution is not as broken as either of these examples, I believe an opportunity to update a vast, unwieldly document reflecting all of the state of the art political thinking of 1867 would prove fruitful. I’ll throw a plug in here for unicameralism while I’m at it, but I won’t hold my breath on that.


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