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Delaware citizens cannot amend the state constitution

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Athelwulf Donating Member (342 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Apr-15-09 09:59 PM
Original message
Delaware citizens cannot amend the state constitution
If my source is correct, Delaware is the only state where voters have absolutely no say when it comes to amendments to the state constitution.

Some states allow citizens to initiate amendments totally independent of the legislature. My state, Oregon, is one of them. Even the states that don't allow this permit the state legislature to refer a proposed amendment to voters. Delaware is the only state where the people are locked out of the amendment process altogether. Only the state legislature has the power to amend the constitution.

How do Delawarean DUers feel about this?
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jberryhill Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-16-09 09:07 AM
Response to Original message
1. A little perspective

The ratio of population/legislators is approximately:

Oregon: 42,000
Delaware: 14,000

Hence the Delaware legislature is several times more representative of the population of Delaware than, for example, Oregon's legislature is representative of the population of Oregon.
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Athelwulf Donating Member (342 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Apr-18-09 09:52 PM
Response to Reply #1
2. A little more perspective.
Edited on Sat Apr-18-09 09:58 PM by Athelwulf
Thanks for your input. What I get from your post is that, since Delawareans have more representation in their state legislature than Oregonians do, the harm of being locked out of the constitutional amendment process is not as severe. Did I interpret that correctly?

I think this statistic is irrelevant. Citizens of some other states have even more representation, and in each of these states, the voters have more power to amend their constitutions. It's not clear to me what numbers you used. I'll do my own calculations, taking the population of each state, according to the 2000 Census, and dividing it by the number of members in the lower chamber of its legislature.
  • Oregon: 3,421,399 people divided by 60 House members is about 57,000
  • Delaware: 783,600 people 41 members ≈ 19,000

Here are some states were voters have more representation and more power to amend the constitution:
  • Rhode Island: 1,048,319 75 ≈ 14,000 (Rhode Islanders can vote on referred constitutional amendments, like in every state but Delaware)
  • Montana: 902,195 100 ≈ 9,000 (Montanans, like Oregonians, have the power to initiate constitutional amendments)
  • Wyoming: 493,782 60 ≈ 8,200 (Wyomingites can vote on referred constitutional amendments)
  • North Dakota: 642,200 94 ≈ 6,800 (North Dakotans have the same power Montanans and Oregonians have)
  • Vermont: 608,827 150 ≈ 4,000 (Vermonters can vote on referred constitutional amendments)

So, to pick just one of these examples, North Dakotans have over three times as much representation in their legislature as Delawareans do, and yet they have the power to amend their constitution totally independent of the legislature, unlike Delawareans. To pick another example, Vermonters have almost five times the representation, and they can vote on amendments referred to them by their legislature, unlike Delawareans.

Again, I think the number of people per legislator is meaningless, except to demonstrate that voters in Delaware, despite their high representation, have less control over their government than voters in other states who have even more representation.

How do Delawarean DUers feel about the fact that they have less direct democratic power in their state government than citizens of Rhode Island, Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, and Vermont, and maybe more?
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jberryhill Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Apr-26-09 06:49 PM
Response to Reply #2
3. I suppose if I were interested in amending Delaware's Constitution....
Edited on Sun Apr-26-09 06:52 PM by jberryhill
...then I'd share your fascination with it.

How do I "feel" about voters in other states being able to amend their state constitution? Just bright green with envy? Is that the right answer?

The process for amending the DE state constitution is first by a 2/3 vote of the House and Senate. Then the amendment must be published prior to the next general election, and has to again pass a 2/3 vote of the House and Senate.

Presumably candidates in the general election would make their position on the amendment(s) known, and voters can decide on that basis.

But the General Assembly cannot, without an intervening popular election, amend the Delaware Constitution.

So, your initial statement, that Delawareans "have absolutely no say" is a bit exaggerated. Presumably, if it were an interesting amendment, there would be sufficient candidates for or against that the required election prior to the second vote on an amendment would turn on that issue.

The last time I can remember an amendment being a big deal was when we instituted the lottery - and I'm probably dating myself there.

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Athelwulf Donating Member (342 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue May-12-09 07:16 PM
Response to Reply #3
4. Sorry for the delayed response.
How do I "feel" about voters in other states being able to amend their state constitution? Just bright green with envy? Is that the right answer?

Only if you think it is. Mostly I'm seeking informative feedback from the people who live in the state. I have my own opinion, and I think that opinion might be showing through, but my intention is to learn and inform, not advocate.

So, your initial statement, that Delawareans "have absolutely no say" is a bit exaggerated. Presumably, if it were an interesting amendment, there would be sufficient candidates for or against that the required election prior to the second vote on an amendment would turn on that issue.

I suppose. You might be right. This was a Progressive Era issue, I think, so it has been a long time. I don't know what the reality was before these state-level reforms were made. But I think the argument for making these reforms was that the various state constitutional amendment processes were too rigid. I know, for example, that Oregon's constitution was not amended at all from the time of statehood in 1859 until the people's initiative process was amended to the constitution in 1902.
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jberryhill Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue May-26-09 05:15 PM
Response to Reply #4
5. Well, we see how well it has worked out in California

Amending the state constitution by a simple majority vote of the electorate in a single election seems like a damned stupid idea.
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LynneSin Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jun-04-09 11:47 AM
Response to Reply #5
6. Seriously, I don't want that mess that California has
That's a fricking nightmare.
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