LWVA Comment on CA Study

The League of Women Voters of Amherst found the ambiguous language in the questions, pro/con statements and study guide confusing, confounding, even contradictory. The ambiguous wording sometimes caused us to conclude “no consensus” even when we were in agreement on many aspects of the question.

We were also concerned that the study appeared to be defined to avoid the critical issue of campaign finance that had prompted local Leagues to call for a study. Our “no consensus” answers should not be interpreted by LWVUS as a reason to avoid taking action on the vital issue of money in politics. We urge the League to take its seat at the table with those attempting to shape an appropriate and well-crafted amendment to reverse forty years of inappropriate Supreme Court decisions. We continue to believe that no other option remains for overturning so many decades of legal precedent, which have unleashed a torrent of special interest monies pouring into our political system. Our fundamental democratic processes are at risk.

The only study question on which there was full-throated agreement was Question 4. We feel strongly that any proposed amendment should be considered on its own merits, regardless of the process by which it was generated and regardless of any League position on those processes that might be derived from this study.

On the other three questions, there was a significant amount of frustration over the disjunction between the text of the question and the material in the study guide. A few examples:

  • The main Question 1 implies that each of the proposed criteria—each innocuous-sounding, but each quite subjective in application—would be only “a consideration.” Were that the case, it is likely that we would have reached consensus on more of these topics. However, the explanatory material suggests that the League could use any one of these criteria to blackball a proposed amendment. For example, for Question 1(c) the study guide makes it clear that the criterion would be used to limit the subject matter of amendments to be considered by the League, something that is not implied by the wording of the question itself. Depending on which argument was uppermost in our minds at any moment, we either approved the lofty abstraction embodied in the bare text of the question, or reached no consensus.
  • Question 2 is phrased to insist that the proposed conditions should be “in place” before an Article V Convention is called. Yet the study materials themselves make it abundantly clear that few or no conditions are likely to be in place before such a Convention is actually called. At best, the League might position itself to lobby for desirable conditions. If the question had been crafted to suggest that the proposed conditions were desirable, rather than “in place”, we might have reached consensus to encourage the stakeholders at a Convention to adopt these conditions.
  • Question 2(f) is particularly badly worded, saying "single topic" when it means "same topic".