A legislative measure has been presented to the state legislature with regards to the conduct of legislators acting as delegates to a national constitutional convention. It says in part:
Section 2. No delegate from South Dakota to an Article V convention has the authority to vote to allow consideration of or vote to approve an unauthorized amendment for ratification to the United States of America Constitution. Any delegate casting a vote to allow consideration or approval of an unauthorized amendment shall be immediately recalled by the secretary of state and replaced by an alternate chosen by the Executive Board of the Legislative Research Council.
Section 3. Every candidate for delegate or alternate from South Dakota to the Article V convention shall take the following oath:
“I do solemnly swear or affirm that to the best of my abilities, I will, as a delegate or alternate to an Article V convention, uphold the Constitution and laws of the United States of America and the State of South Dakota. I will not vote to allow consideration of or to approve any unauthorized amendment proposed for ratification to the United States of America Constitution.”
This legislation is coming on the heels of proposals for the states to call a constitutional convention for the purpose of amending the US Constitution in a non-traditional manner, which is allowed by law. Instead of the state’s ratifying amendments directly, they’d send delegates to a convention.
Not a bad thought at all, but as more time goes by between the time when this was first brought up, and a time when states are going to be able to pull it off, paranoia is apparently setting in.
“I do solemnly swear or affirm that to the best of my abilities….. I will not vote to allow consideration of or to approve any unauthorized amendment proposed for ratification to the United States of America Constitution.”
Um. Yeah. Is it just me, or is that kind of a dumb thing to put in an oath? If they’re going to put that type of proviso onto what the delegate is going to vote for, why don’t they tell him how he’s going to cast his ballot? And if they’re going to do that, why hold a convention of this type, as opposed to amending the constitution in the traditional manner?
The best part?
Section 5. Any delegate who violates the oath contained in section 3 of this Act is subject to a civil fine of not more than five thousand dollars to be levied by the secretary of state and deposited in the state general fund.
What!?! And we’re going to attach a weird civil/criminal penalty to it as well?
First off, The obvious way around it is to simply attach unrelated acts to the main amendment (just like Congress does), leaving the original title and intent. It would allow participants for such a convention to cast their ballot in compliance with.
Secondly, you have to consider who we’re sending to this type of convention.
The people elected to the legislature have been elected by the people of their respective legislative districts to represent their voice in the state Capitol. So, they’re entrusted with doing the right thing by taxpayers to start. The people selected to go to this type of constitutional convention would be chosen by this august group, the South Dakota State Legislature, by those people we chose to send to Pierre.
So allegedly, the ones going to this type of convention are not our best. They’re ‘the best of the best.’
Shouldn’t we be able to entrust them to discuss, debate and amend amongst their peers from other states in this incubator of Democracy? Shouldn’t we be able to entrust them to conduct the types of discussions and formulate policies, the likes of which haven’t been seen since the Bill of Rights?
Putting this kind of limitation on delegates seems…. small. And in direct opposition to the reasons we’d conduct a grand experiment in Democracy such as a constitutional convention.