The State Government Committee heard legislation this week to change the constitutional amendment process to raise the bar for amendments to go on the ballot.
One bill would require a three-fifths majority vote of the Legislature in order to put any constitutional amendment on the November ballot and would require the House and Senate to vote on the possible constitutional amendment in different calendar years. A second bill requires a two-thirds majority vote. Currently, a simple majority is required.
Raising the threshold for constitutional amendments is an attempt to prevent partisan and divisive issues from congesting Minnesota’s general election ballot. After the divisive 2012 constitutional amendments regarding gay marriage and voter identification, discussion began to temper the ability of the Legislature to place politically charged amendments on the ballot.
An additional justification is the allegation that passage of amendments by the majority party could be used as a tool for partisan voter turnout through ballot initiatives. A three-fifths majority in both legislative bodies would ensure bipartisan consensus is reached before the constitution is permanently amended.