Amending the NYS Constitution

The NYS Constitution may be amended in two ways:

  1. Amendments to the Constitution may be proposed by the Legislature at any time. Article XIX, §1.
  2. Every 20 years, voters have the opportunity to approve convening a convention to propose changes to the Constitution. Article XIX, §2.

Either way, proposed changes to the Constitution must be approved by a majority of voters.


Amendments Proposed by the Legislature

New York’s Constitution provides in Article XIX §1 that amendments to the constitution may be proposed by the Legislature and, if adopted, referred to the next regular legislative session convening after the succeeding general election of members of that Legislature for consideration and passage. Such amendments must be approved by the people at an election before they can become a part of the Constitution. While this method was successful in changing the selection system for the New York State Court of Appeals, other reforms, such a court merger (simplification) have been dormant in the Legislature for many years because of lack of interest by legislators.

Amendments by Constitutional Convention

The process for amending the constitution by convention is a three part process spanning three election cycles: at a general election, voters either approve or reject holding a convention; if the voters approve holding a convention delegates to that convention will be chosen in the following year’s general election; and any changes or additions to the Constitution made by the delegates will, as has been the case previously when amending the Constitution by a convention, be submitted for voter approval or rejection in the third year of the process at a general election.

Background and History of NYS’s Constitutional Conventioin

The Convention of 1938 reset the twenty year cycle (for the voters to consider convening a convention) for 1957 and at twenty year intervals thereafter, meaning 1977, 1977 and 2017.

In 1965 the Legislature passed a resolution to consider convening constitutional convention, which the voters approved, and a constitutional convention was held in 1967. The Legislature’s decision had no legal effect on the twenty year cycle required by the Constitution, so the question appeared on the ballot in 1977 (not approved by the voters) and 1997 (not approved by the voters).

Article XIX §1 states that amendments to the Constitution may be proposed by the Legislature and, if adopted, referred to the next regular legislative session convening after the succeeding general election of members of that Legislature for consideration and passage. Such amendments must be approved by the people at an election before they can become a part of the Constitution.

In 1977 the creation of the Commission on Judicial Nomination, a qualification commission-based which recommends a limited number of nominees to the Governor for appointment to the New York’s Court of Appeals, which requires Senate confirmation; provides the Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals with the authority to administer the Unified Court System; and establishes the Commission on Judicial Conduct.

In 2017 the voters rejected holding a Constitutional Convention.

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