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Constitutional Convention: Representation By Appointment?

October 7, 2009

In the North County Times (“Serving North San Diego & SW Riverside Counties”), columnist Phil Strickland writes that Repair California is rewriting their constitutional convention ballot initiatives so that constitutional delegates will be appointed by local politicians:

Basically, county supervisors would pick five commissioners who would select delegates from among U.S.citizens who apply for the position. A county would get a delegate for every 250,000 legal residents or portion thereof. […]

There are restrictions barring, among others, lobbyists, some business principals, government workers and, of course, anyone who had held elected office in the last 10 years from being chosen as a delegate or a selection-commission member.

It would be a disappointment if this is the plan that ultimately emerges from Repair California’s efforts. On the one hand, there would be absolutely no assurance that those who have been left out of politics in our state would have their voices heard. In fact, if there’s any assurance, it would be that they won’t have their voices heard. Even at the local level, there are those who are ignored by the political establishment.

Conversely, everyone who would be prohibited from participating would be treated unfairly as well. Those business principals, lobbyists and government workers (plus whoever else they try to exclude to make it seem fair ) are California citizens as well and that should be the only criteria that matters. Of course, we can’t have 38 million people at the convention, so random selection is the only way to go.

In a policy paper titled “A Citizens Constitutional Convention for California,” Steven Hill of the New America Foundation explains that previous instances of deliberative democracy shown its viability:

In previous uses of these deliberative democracy methods, not only were citizens able to make sound decisions but, perhaps more importantly, their feeling of power over their destiny helped restore their faith in government.

That last point is particularly important. If people believe that it is politicians who are appointing the delegates, the process will become associated with the government, of which Californians have a dismal view. Hopefully, Strickland is misinformed here, not because I have something against him but because

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