Crucial Details of a California Constitutional Convention

Policy Paper
June 29, 2009

With California's fiscal woes mounting, and the government in Sacramento seemingly frozen in place, a constitutional convention has been proposed as a way to fix the Golden State's deeply entrenched structural problems.  But as more people have begun considering this option, several important questions have arisen about some of the details of the Convention, specifically:  1) how would the delegates to the Convention be chosen; 2) how would a Convention of delegates chosen by random selection function, and how would the delegates be educated; 3) what would be the scope of the issues taken up by the Convention, and 4) how would the public monitor and even participate in providing input to the Convention. These sorts of details are extremely important. If ever there was a case where "the devil is in the details," this is certainly one of them.

There are three basic ways to select delegates to such a body:  appoint them, elect them, or randomly select them. Each of these methods has their pros and cons, and the more one considers this question it becomes clear that there is no perfect method. But there is perhaps a ‘least worst' method. That method may be the random selection method, which means that the details of this method become all the more important. In particular, an intensive education process for the delegates will be necessary, as well as proper design of that education period to ensure the education is thorough and unbiased.

The mandate and scope of the Convention also are crucial, with a consensus growing that the scope should be limited to issues related to governance, elections and budget reform.

This memo is designed to fill in important details to a constitutional convention on all these matters and more.

To read the full proposal click here or download a PDF copy below.

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