February 4: Constitutional Convention Overdue?

6 February 2010 | 182 Comments » | pablo

The constitution of New York State isn’t a musty old parchment preserved for eternity behind reflective glass.  It’s a living document, encoded with DNA that permits and even invites its evolution. Its framers and stewards for over two centuries envisioned the periodic need to amend or re-write the constitution based on changes in society and the people’s sovereign right to redress perceived misgovernment.  Consequently, New Yorkers have seen more than 100 amendments and five distinct constitutions, the first one drafted at convention by John Jay in 1777.  Intervals between new state constitutions were 44 years (1821), 25 years (1846), 48 years (1894) and 44 years (1938).  If New Yorkers were to hold a citizens’ convention and adopt a new constitution in 2012 (the earliest possible timeframe) that would be an interval of 74 years between constitutions—or nearly twice our state’s historic average.  Thus the human tides of history itself suggest that a convention may be long overdue.  Ironically, even those people who fear constitutional change, today enjoy its benefits.