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As Momentum Builds Behind Constitutional Convention Movement, Many Questions Remain Unanswered

Junius Brutus Stearns -
Washington at Constitutional Convention of 1787, signing of U.S. Constitution.

Update, Friday, June 16:

The Wisconsin Assembly passed a measure calling for an Article V Convention, as well as two other measures regarding the parameters of the convention and the attendees. The proposals now head to the Wisconsin Senate. 

Original Post, Friday, February 3:

Since the current U.S. Constitution was created in 1787, the basic framework of the document has remained largely unchanged. But that could change.

A group of corporations and conservative legislators - known as ALEC, or the American Legislative Exchange Council - is pushing for an Article V Convention. The move, also known as a constitutional convention, could end in amending or completely changing the U.S. constitution.

Currently, 28 states have called for an Article V Convention, meaning only 6 more states are needed to hold one. Wisconsin has yet to join the campaign, but is a likely target for the conservative movement.

In the country’s history, there has only been one constitutional convention - when our current constitution was created. So it’s a bit unclear how a modern convention would operate, or how an Article V Convention can be called to order. 

"There's widespread disagreement about whether they have to say to Congress, 'Let's call a convention for precisely the same reason; for slightly different reasons.' So there's lot of play in the joints and much to challenge legally and constitutionally," says Peter Rofes, a professor of constitutional law at Marquette University Law School. 

Rofes is quick to note that any changes made at the convention would have to be ratified by at least 3/4 of the states, or 38 states, before amending the constitution. But it's unclear who would participate in the convention itself, and who would be ratifying any potential changes. Although 3/4 of states are required to ratify any amendments or changes, the ratification process doesn't necessarily have to go through state legislators. 

"Presumably each state will have a fair amount of discretion in how it goes about determining for its own state whether it chooses to ratify or not," he explains. "And that would leave some discretion to each state to determine who, what, how and the like." 

Joy is a WUWM host and producer for Lake Effect.