Last November, Marylanders went to the polls. In addition to choosing candidates to administer their government as well as delegates to legislate for them, there was a ballot question on whether to call a constitutional convention, which, if voters so chose, would provide an opportunity to propose fundamental reforms.
Well, voters so chose. A solid majority — 54.4 percent — voted Yea.
But the Maryland Legislature isn’t setting up the convention.
In a Baltimore Sun op-ed, J.H. Snider, president of iSolon.org, tells the history of the constitutional convention provision in Maryland’s 1851 Constitution: “From 1851 until 1930, the majority required to convene a con-con was interpreted and implemented to mean an ordinary majority.”
But in 1930, when a majority said yes to a convention, the legislature balked, claiming that a convention required a supermajority of all citizens voting in the election. In other words, those not voting on the convention issue were counted as Nay votes.
A legal challenge was brought, but failed, because the counsel to the General Assembly provided, according to Snider, “a remarkably selective and biased interpretation of the con-con debates” for the court. In 1950, again a simple majority called a convention, again legislators shut their ears and, this time, a federal court case failed to decide the matter.
Snider supports a convention as the “best hope for fixing Maryland’s democratic deficits, including its inherently corrupt redistricting system and its legislators’ defiance of popular sentiment on legislative term limits.”
So, he’s suing the Old Line State government “to force it to convene the con-con a majority of Marylanders voted for on Nov. 2, 2010.”
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.