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Federalism

The “Runaway Convention”: A Most Tenacious Myth

Article V of the U.S. Constitution provides a mechanism for the states to propose constitutional amendments. America’s Founders included this provision because they envisioned a day when the states would be needed to help restore function to an increasingly dysfunctional federal government. Many in the nation on both the Left and Right believe that we are witnessing just such a time and have begun assertively pursuing Article V applications in state legislatures. These applications address topics ranging from proposing a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution to proposing an amendment to require congressional term limits to a constitutional amendment that would overturn the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission Supreme Court decision. Two-thirds of the states (34) must submit applications proposing the same amendment before Congress is compelled to call an amendments convention of the states. For a comprehensive list of state applications, see the Article V Library here.

The universal roadblock that prevents Article V applications from reaching the 34-state threshold is the myth of the “runaway convention.” This fiction first appeared in the early 1960s and has taken hold of the imaginations of many who oppose Article V process. Professor Rob Natelson of the Independence Institute and a member of the ALEC Board of Scholars recently published an excellent article on the origins of the “runaway convention” in The Hill. It can be accessed it here.


In Depth: Federalism

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