Ordered Liberty: A Constitutional History of New York

By Peter J. Galie | Go to book overview

14
Modernizing the
Constitution:
The Constitutional
Convention of 1967

THE YEAR 1957 was selected by the 1938 convention as the target date set for the next referendum, rather than 1956, the actual twentieth year, so that the convention would be in session in 1959, an off year, rather than 1958, when an election for governor would take place. Voters rejected the call.

The next decade brought major changes in New York's political landscape -- changes which pushed the state toward a convention. Organized pressure from a variety of civic groups had been growing, and prominent newspapers throughout the state editorialized on the need for a constitutional convention. 1 Howard Samuels, a successful businessman and Democratic candidate for governor in 1962, created a Citizens Committee for a Constitutional Convention, a "non-partisan group organized to obtain an affirmative vote on the referendum question. . . ." 2 The decisive factor on the decision to call a convention, however, came from outside the state -- a series of United States Supreme Court decisions declaring many state reapportionment schemes unconstitutional. One such case, WMCA Inc. v. Lomenzo, 3 invalidated the apportionment provision of the New York Constitution. Lomenzo acted as a catalyst for the state's civic groups, which coordinated a statewide campaign for a convention. Unable to resolve the reapportionment issue itself, the legislature approved a bill to place the question of a new convention before the voters. The 1964 landslide victory of Democratic President Lyndon B. Johnson helped deliver both houses of the New York state legislature to the Democrats. Believing that they would control any constitutional convention held in the next few years, Democrats were not adverse to holding an early convention. The electorate approved the proposal by a margin of 233,000 votes -- 1,681,438 (53%) to 1,468,431.

-307-

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