Rewriting State Constitutions Lacks Support

Tea Partiers rail against taxes, deficits, and a government unmoored from its founding principles. But offered a chance to buck the system, would they grab it? Not necessarily. In 14 states, residents periodically have the right to torch their constitutions and rewrite them at conventions that exclude sitting politicians. These ballot initiatives, which stem from the Jeffersonian ideal that "every law naturally expires after 19 years," are active in a record four states this fall. Curiously, however, they seem destined to fail in all of them.

"No one is even talking about it" in Montana, according to the Billings Gazette. Less than $200, by one estimate, has been spent promoting either side in Maryland. And Iowans are debating it as a proxy for same-sex marriage, an issue voters seem to think is best addressed through more direct channels. Only in one of the nation's most beleaguered states, Michigan, is the issue even in play. From a high near 50 percent, support has flagged to one in four voters—an enthusiasm gap that political scientists attribute to the difference between the drudgery of constitutional framing and the passion of politicking. Offered parchment and ink, in other words, most people would still opt for posterboard and markers.