State Constitutional Convention Clearinghouse
Information Related to Hawaiʻi's November 6, 2018 State Constitutional Convention Referendum
The Purpose of the Referendum
The unique democratic purpose of Hawaii’s periodic constitutional convention referendum is to implement Hawaiians’ inalienable right to alter their constitution in cases where the interests of the legislature and people conflict. Hawaii’s Constitution allows the people to exercise this right once every ten years. To realize this democratic purpose, a convention must be substantially independent of the legislature’s control. For example, Hawaii’s Constitution prohibits the legislature from directly limiting a convention’s agenda. The agenda is placed in the hands of the people independently of the legislature. Democratic accountability is primarily sought by granting the people three votes over the process:
- to call a convention,
- to elect delegates to a convention, and
- to ratify any amendments a convention might propose for their consideration.
The people cannot ratify any constitutional change in conflict with Federal law, including the U.S. Constitution.
The Ballot Question
“Shall there be a convention to propose a revision of or amendments to the Constitution?”
December 18, 2017. Civil Beat editorial endorses calling for a Hawaiian state constitutional convention in 2018. It is the first newspaper editorial on the 2018 state constitutional convention referendum.
December 11, 2017. Hawaii’s first state constitutional convention poll finds 67% of Hawaiian voters support calling a convention. Poll results, including on legislative bypass issues a convention could address, were reported in Honolulu Civil Beat over multiple days. The December 12 article in the series reported, for example, that 68% supported state legislator term limits, a classic legislature bypass issue.
December 7, 2017. Snider, J.H., Preparing For Hawaii’s Next Constitutional Convention Vote, Honolulu Civil Beat, December 7, 2017. Also covered in Con-Con: Referendum set for Nov. 6, 2018, Hawaii Free Press, December 7, 2017.
The Public’s Three Votes in the
Constitutional Convention Process
Flowchart of the
Constitutional Convention Process
Constitutional Convention Process Notes
* An educated guess based on the last two constitutional convention delegate special elections, which were held on June 1, 1968 and May 20, 1978. Hawaii’s Constitution specifies: “Delegates to the convention chosen at the next regular election unless the legislature shall provide for the election of delegates at a special election.”
** This is the last possible date it could convene. Hawaii’s Constitution specifies: “The constitutional convention shall convene not less than five months prior to the next regularly scheduled general election.”
***This is the last likely date it could adjourn. No Hawaii convention has ever lasted more than 101 days. Hawaii’s Constitution specifies: “At least thirty days prior to the submission of any proposed revision or amendments, the convention shall make available for public inspection, a full text of the proposed amendments.”
**** This is the most likely date to vote on the convention’s proposals, as all past Hawaii conventions have placed their proposals on general election ballots. Hawaii’s Constitution specifies: “The convention shall provide for the time and manner in which the proposed constitutional revision or amendments shall be submitted to a vote of the electorate.”
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REVISION & AMENDMENT
METHODS OF PROPOSAL
Section 1. Revisions of or amendments to this constitution may be proposed by constitutional convention or by the legislature. [Ren Const Con 1978 and election Nov 7, 1978]
Section 2. The legislature may submit to the electorate at any general or special election the question, “Shall there be a convention to propose a revision of or amendments to the Constitution?” If any nine-year period shall elapse during which the question shall not have been submitted, the lieutenant governor shall certify the question, to be voted on at the first general election following the expiration of such period.
ELECTION OF DELEGATES
If a majority of the ballots cast upon such a question be in the affirmative, delegates to the convention shall be chosen at the next regular election unless the legislature shall provide for the election of delegates at a special election.
Notwithstanding any provision in this constitution to the contrary, other than Section 3 of Article XVI, any qualified voter of the district concerned shall be eligible to membership in the convention.
The legislature shall provide for the number of delegates to the convention, the areas from which they shall be elected and the manner in which the convention shall convene. The legislature shall also provide for the necessary facilities and equipment for the convention. The convention shall have the same powers and privileges, as nearly as practicable, as provided for the convention of 1978.
The constitutional convention shall convene not less than five months prior to the next regularly scheduled general election.
The convention shall determine its own organization and rules of procedure. It shall be the sole judge of the elections, returns and qualifications of its members and, by a two-thirds vote, may suspend or remove any member for cause. The governor shall fill any vacancy by appointment of a qualified voter from the district concerned.
The convention shall provide for the time and manner in which the proposed constitutional revision or amendments shall be submitted to a vote of the electorate; provided that each amendment shall be submitted in the form of a question embracing but one subject; and provided further, that each question shall have designated spaces to mark YES or NO on the amendment.
At least thirty days prior to the submission of any proposed revision or amendments, the convention shall make available for public inspection, a full text of the proposed amendments. Every public library, office of the clerk of each county, and the chief election officer shall be provided such texts and shall make them available for public inspection. The full text of any proposed revision or amendments shall also be made available for inspection at every polling place on the day of the election at which such revision or amendments are submitted.
The convention shall, as provided by law, be responsible for a program of voter education concerning each proposed revision or amendment to be submitted to the electorate.
The revision or amendments shall be effective only if approved at a general election by a majority of all the votes tallied upon the question, this majority constituting at least fifty per cent of the total vote cast at the election, or at a special election by a majority of all the votes tallied upon the question, this majority constituting at least thirty per cent of the total number of registered voters.
The provisions of this section shall be self-executing, but the legislature shall make the necessary appropriations and may enact legislation to facilitate their operation. [Am Const Con 1968 and election Nov 5, 1968; ren and am Const Con 1978 and election Nov 7, 1978; am SB 578 (1979) and SB 1703 (1980) and election Nov 4, 1980]
AMENDMENTS PROPOSED BY LEGISLATURE
Section 3. The legislature may propose amendments to the constitution by adopting the same, in the manner required for legislation, by a two-thirds vote of each house on final reading at any session, after either or both houses shall have given the governor at least ten days’ written notice of the final form of the proposed amendment, or, with or without such notice, by a majority vote of each house on final reading at each of two successive sessions.
Upon such adoption, the proposed amendments shall be entered upon the journals, with the ayes and noes, and published once in each of four successive weeks in at least one newspaper of general circulation in each senatorial district wherein such a newspaper is published, within the two months’ period immediately preceding the next general election.
At such general election the proposed amendments shall be submitted to the electorate for approval or rejection upon a separate ballot.
The conditions of and requirements for ratification of such proposed amendments shall be the same as provided in section 2 of this article for ratification at a general election. [Ren and am Const Con 1978 and election Nov 7, 1978]
Section 4. No proposal for amendment of the constitution adopted in either manner provided by this article shall be subject to veto by the governor. [Ren Const Con 1978 and election Nov 7, 1978]
CONFLICTING REVISIONS OR AMENDMENTS
Section 5. If a revision or amendment proposed by a constitutional convention is in conflict with a revision or amendment proposed by the legislature and both are submitted to the electorate at the same election and both are approved, then the revision or amendment proposed by the convention shall prevail. If conflicting revisions or amendments are proposed by the same body and are submitted to the electorate at the same election and both are approved, then the revision or amendment receiving the highest number of votes shall prevail. [Add Const Con 1968 and election Nov 5, 1968; ren Const Con 1978 and election Nov 7, 1978]
Constitutional Convention Milestones
March 11, 2016. Hawaii House of Representatives Concurrent Resolution Number 86. Places the state constitutional convention referendum on the 2018 ballot. The legislative history can be found here.
November 6, 2018. The referendum date on whether to call a state constitutional convention. Implementation instructions from the State of Hawaii Office of Elections can be found here. Implementation guidelines in the Hawaiʻi Revised Statutes, Title 2: Elections, can be found here.
wdt_ID Date Nickname Duration Pre-Statehood 1
Kamehameha III Constitution
Kamehameha III Constitution
Kamehameha V Constitution
Constitution of the Republic
Hope Chest Constitution
Hope Chest Constitution
*On June 17, 1959 Hawaiians both voted for statehood and several amendments to its constitution, which Hawaiians also had to approve before Congress would grant them statehood. On August 21, 1959, Hawaii was granted statehood.
Constitutional Convention Call Votes
wdt_ID Year Date Yes# No# Blank# Invalid# (e.g., overvotes) Yes/(Yes+No) Yes/(Yes+No+Blank+Invalid) Called? 1
Delegate Elections, Composition, Meetings, and Cost
wdt_ID Year Delegate Election ConCon Start ConCon Finish Calendar Days Meeting Days Candidate# Delegate# Male# Female# Female% Cost 1
Constitutional Convention Ratification Votes
wdt_ID Year Date Total Amendment# Amendment# Ratified Amendment% Ratified Ratification Formula 1
1978 Constitutional Convention Statistical Profile
wdt_ID Feature Implmentation 1
Convention call date
Nov. 2, 1976
Convention call yes votes
Convention call no votes
Convention call % (yes/(no+yes))
Delegate election date
May 20, 1978
# of Delegates
# of incumbent legislator delegates
% incumbent legislator delegates
# of non-retiring incumbent legislator delegates
* Source: “Expenses of the Convention,” Proceedings of the Constitutional Convention of Hawaii of 1970, Volume 1, pp. 1191-1205. Note that convention expenses are highly politicized in constitutional convention politics because they are central to no campaigns and hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars are spent advertising the highest conceivable cost to a convention. A high cost fits into the narrative that a convention is not worth the money. The total cost here is in 1978, not current dollars. It excludes some items that would be higher in a contemporary convention (e.g., payroll taxes and computers) while adding others that would be lower (e.g., messenger boys and printing costs). According to the C.P.I. Inflation Calculator provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, $1 in October 1978 dollars is worth $3.78 in October 2017 dollars, which would make $2,032,401 in October 1979 dollars come to $7,682,476 in October 2017 dollars.
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Countdown until the referendum
Percentage of Americans who know they have a state constitution
The Spelling of Hawaiʻi
This website refers to many old documents, including government documents, that use the traditional English spelling of Hawaii rather than the increasingly widespread contemporary spelling, Hawaiʻi. This website has adopted the following compromise: use the more more modern spelling in the header and the traditional spelling in the body.
Snider, J.H., Does the World Really Belong to the Living? The Decline of the Constitutional Convention in New York and Other US States, 1776–2015, Journal of American Political Thought 6, no. 2 (Spring 2017): 256-293.
Top 2 Yes & No Ads
(from the 2017 New York Campaigns)