But It’s Never Happened Before!

by Vickie Deppe – January 2024

It’s the Article V opponent’s favorite scare tactic: “This has never happened before…we can’t possibly know what the delegates will do! They could rewrite the entire Constitution.” [Cue ominous music.] In fact, the states have met in convention dozens of times, and none of these meetings exceeded its mandate, including the Constitutional Convention of 1787. These folks are misinformed…or they hope you are.

Columnist Dick Evans marked the 90th anniversary of the repeal of Prohibition on December 5 with a guest column in the Daily Hampshire Gazette, “When volunteer lawyers saved us from Prohibition.” Evans pulls back the curtain to reveal preparations for the first round of conventions called under the authority of Article V in American history: the ratification of the 21st Amendment. Calling it “the best-kept secret in American constitutional law,” he describes the activities of the Voluntary Committee of Lawyers (VCL). Formed to provide a forum for attorneys to discuss concerns surrounding the criminalization of alcohol, the VCL anticipated that state ratification conventions would be necessary to get around the special interests that controlled state legislatures. They set about drafting model legislation featuring elected delegates pledged to vote “yes” or “no.” As a result of their efforts, the 21st Amendment was ratified in just 10 months…one of the fastest ratifications in American history.

Similar efforts are underway to prepare for the next convention to be held under the authority of Article V. Advocates, state legislators, and legislatively authorized delegates have been working for over a decade hosting dry runs and drafting convention rules proposals, model legislation, and delegate selection and oversight (DSO) statutes. At least 19 states have DSO statutes in place with more in the pipeline, and the rest will have plenty of model legislation from which to choose. Even the Supreme Court has weighed in on whether states can control their delegates in the 9-0 Ciafolo v. Washington opinion authored by Justice Elena Kagan.

Yes, it has happened before. Yes, we have a pretty good idea what will happen. Yes, the delegates can be controlled. Yes, Republicans and Democrats will have to rise to the occasion and cooperate if they’re going to accomplish anything meaningful for their constituents. Don’t be fooled by the naysayers: an Article V Convention isn’t nearly as scary as our out-of-control federal government. Say “yes” to constitutional reform using Article V. Like our 21st Amendment forebears, yes…our grandchildren will thank us.

Article V Caucus