In 2017, as required every 20 years, New Yorkers will vote on whether to hold a constitutional convention. A constitutional convention is an open-ended process led by specially-elected delegates to amend the state constitution.

The NYCLU firmly opposes the constitutional convention. It would place in serious danger our state protections for civil rights and civil liberties. That’s because the process is rigged to favor the interests of the powerful.

Constitutional Convention Overview (PDF)

Here’s why:

  • The selection of delegates to constitutional conventions is based upon gerrymandered state Senate districts. These districts have been drawn to curb the power of voters and reinforce existing political power.
  • The at-large election of the delegates to the convention reduces the influence of minority voters. New York is a diverse state, but that wouldn’t be reflected in the make-up of the delegates.
  • The rules and process are determined by delegates, with no built-in public checks on how a convention operates.

In the end, a constitutional convention is no more insulated from horse-trading, insider politics, and special interest influence than the usual process in Albany – but the stakes would be so much higher.

The constitutional convention would put at risk state protections that in many instances are stronger than those under federal law. This includes free expression, separation of church and state, the rights of criminal defendants – and more.

Given the threat to our liberties posed by Washington and the Trump administration, New Yorkers cannot afford to treat civil liberties and constitutional rights as political bargaining chips.

That’s why the NYCLU prefers the more deliberative process that already exists for amending the state constitution when needed: two consecutive legislative approvals and then approval by voters statewide.

Constitutional Convention Timeline:

  • November 7, 2017 general election: New Yorkers vote whether to convene a constitutional convention. 
  • November 6, 2018 general election: If a convention has been approved, voters select delegates via general election ballot. 
  • April 2, 2019: Constitutional Convention deliberations begin.
  • November 5, 2019 general election: Amendments proposed by the convention are presented to the voters for approval.

City Bar Opposition Memo