On November 4, Hawai‘i voters will be able to vote for, against or leave blank their response to the ballot question, “Shall there be a convention to propose a revision of or amendments to the Constitution?” It is one of the most important decisions facing Hawai‘i voters this general election.
A constitutional convention, or con con, is an organized gathering of publicly elected delegates for the purpose of reviewing and putting forth revisions to our existing state constitution. Any proposed amendments approved by the constitutional delegates would then be voted on for ratification by the public electorate during the next general election.
I believe convening a con con would be beneficial for the entire state by allowing residents an opportunity to be more directly involved in the decisions that govern them. For neighbor island residents, the potential benefits are even greater. We’ve heard the desire for greater local control over neighbor island schools and health facilities. A con con would provide a platform for these desires to be heard and lead to their possible incorporation into our constitution.
The framers of the Hawai‘i State Constitution recognized the need to modify the document as times change. That’s why they included an article that calls for holding a constitutional convention every 10 years, if a majority of the electorate decides to do so. In 1996, Hawai‘i voters cast more “yes” than “no” votes in support of a con con. However, that year the Hawai‘i Supreme Court ruled that blank ballots be counted as “no” votes. Consequently, a con con hasn’t been held in our state since 1978.
To ensure that residents statewide have accurate information on which to base their vote on November 4th, Lt. Governor Aiona recently brought together a bipartisan task force to study the costs of convening a convention. The task force will release its findings in a public report no later than August 1, 2008. Residents can provide their comments to the task force at email@example.com .
Our last con con in 1978 helped to establish term limits for the governor and lieutenant governor and create the Judicial Selection Commission and Office of Hawaiian Affairs. The people of Hawai‘i made these important decisions, and now 30 years later have a new opportunity to take a fresh look at how our government operates.
I encourage you to learn more about the con con issue on Lieutenant Governor Aiona’s website at www.hawaii.gov/ltgov . As residents, you are most familiar with the challenges and opportunities in Hawai‘i, and therefore in the best position to determine the path to a brighter future.
Governor Linda Lingle