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Constitutional convention question on this year’s ballot

This year, voters will be asked whether they approve the scheduling of a convention to propose amendments to the Iowa Constitution.

The question at the end of the ballot has been asked every 10 years since 1970: “Shall there be a convention to revise the Constitution, and propose amendments or amendments to the same?”

As required, Gov. Kim Reynolds signed a proclamation in September to place the question on the ballot. In the last 50 years, voters have never approved the measure with a majority “Yes” vote.

The last time the question appeared, it failed two-to-one, even in the face of a push to amend the state’s constitution to ban same-sex marriage, which the Iowa Supreme Court unanimously recognized the right to through its 2009 ruling in Varnum v. Brien. Instead, voters ousted three of the Iowa Supreme Court justices that were up for retention elections in 2010.

If voters approve the measure, the Iowa Legislature creates rules to elect delegates for a convention and a process for submitting constitutional amendments. The amendments proposed by the convention would then be put on another ballot for voters to weigh in.

The ballot question is one short cut to amending the state’s constitution. Amendments can also be proposed through the Iowa Legislature. If legislators pass an amendment in two consecutive sessions, the amendment is placed on the ballot for final approval by voters.

In recent years, the Iowa Legislature has considered amendments to allow those with felony convictions to vote after serving their sentences, add the explicit right to keep and bear arms and add that the Iowa Constitution explicitly does not recognize the right to abortion. None of the measures have passed in two consecutive sessions.

The original Iowa Constitution that stands today was ratified in 1857, 11 years after Iowa became a state. Since then, state voters have approved 48 amendments. The last one, approved by voters in 2010, declared that three-eights of a cent of any future sales tax would support the Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund.

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