At a convention of the states to propose an amendment to the Constitution, the vote of a majority of the several states is sufficient to propose an amendment.
Some individuals preparing the rules for a convention of the states believe a vote of a super majority (34) of the states should be required in order to propose an amendment.
They base their argument on the premise that if the convention cannot get 2/3rds of the states to propose, then the amendment could not gain the required 3/4ths (38) to ratify.
The proponents assume a great deal regarding the amount of power and influence a handful of delegates at the convention have over how a legislature, which has yet to be elected, will vote on a proposed amendment.
The ratification process will extend at least seven years from when Congress returns it to the legislatures for ratification. During that period there are at least three election cycles.
No amendment has ever been ratified without the popular support of a large majority of the people. The people will determine if an amendment is ratified, not the current composition of a state legislature. The political composition of a legislature could change based upon the popularity of the amendment.
Additionally, the proponents also argue that if Congress needs 2/3rds to propose, the Convention should be required to have 2/3rds to propose.
Forgotten in this argument is the fact the states have already met a 2/3rds threshold through the arduous process of securing 2/3rds (34) of the states to pass a resolution to convene the convention. This process required at least 138 affirmative votes for the amendment subject which includes 68 committee votes and 68 floor votes.
To then require the convention to have a 2/3rds requirement to propose would be similar to requiring a state legislature to have a 3/4ths majority in both houses to ratify an amendment, as the Constitution requires 3/4ths of the states to ratify an amendment. In almost every state, a simple majority is required.
Requiring a greater vote than a majority of the states (26) at a convention will likely result in either a very weak amendment being proposed which would prevent it from being ratified or a deadlocked convention.
Should a majority of the states settle on the language of an amendment and there is a requirement to have the support of more states, the minority will then control the amendment language. This will cause a dilution in the “quality of the amendment.”
The further away the threshold of states to propose is from a majority, the greater the influence of the minority, as for each state needed above the majority, each additional state will place its demands upon the language.
This will eventually cause the amendment language to be far from the will of the majority which will result in proposing an amendment which the majority will not support during ratification or a deadlocked convention if the minority refuses to participate.
The issue of whether an amendment will be ratified rests with the “quality” of the amendment and not its perceived ability to be ratified at the time it is proposed. The people will examine the amendment and determine if it has merit.
William H. Fruth
National Co-Founder, Balanced Budget Amendment Task Force