“If you’re at all risk averse, the idea of a constitutional convention ought to be a very frightening thing,” says Todd Pettys, a constitutional law professor at the University of Iowa. “It’s really the appropriate thing to do only if you think the system is fundamentally broken and needs to be changed in lots of ways.”
Pettys says voters in the 1920 election asked for a constitutional convention, but the Iowa legislature refused to follow through and organize one. Any changes convention delegates drafted ultimately would have to be approved by voters, but Pettys says convention delegates could propose dramatic changes in how Iowa government is structured.
“So you’re really opening up a Pandora’s Box,” he says, “and then whatever they propose, whatever document they come up with gets sent out to the people of Iowa to get voted on in one up or down vote.”
The state’s original — and only — constitution was ratified in 1857 and it includes a requirement that voters be asked every 10 years if they wish to hold a constitutional convention to consider changes to the document. There’s a separate process for proposing amendments to the Iowa Constitution and, over the past 154 years, the state’s voters have approved 48 amendments.
(By Iowa Public Radio’s Katarina Sostaric)