The Texas Constitution was written in the 1870s and despite all of its amendments, the constitution is still used today and this shows that the document has been able to survive and adapt over time (Sandoval, 2011). However, there are many reasons as to why the Texan Constitution needs to be reformed as soon as possible as it can no longer survive in the twenty-first century due to its complexions. Therefore, this essay will argue that the Texas Constitution needs to be rewritten based on the following reasons: it is a long constitution that is out-dated and in need of urgent reform; voter turnout for constitutional amendments tends to be considerably low; voters are asked to make decisions on complicated briefs that are not accurately summed up in explanatory statements; an expansion of power from the Texas state government would better serve the needs of Texans. This essay will compare these arguments to reasons why the Texas Constitution should not be rewritten and finish with a conclusion summarising the arguments why the constitution needs to be rewritten.
Nonetheless, there are many reasons as to why the constitution should not be overhauled and rewritten. Despite all the initial flaws that the Texas Constitution has, it is still a functioning document that remains in existence to this day and has become greatly respected among many people who have served in the Texan legislature. Representative John Smithee argued in 1999 that the Texas Constitution inhibits the functions of different county government; he still embraced the heart of what the Texan Constitution stood for and believed that it should be reformed instead of rewritten (St. Peter, 1999).
Because of what the Texas Constitution stands for in allowing amendments to happen when necessary, there has been much progress in the past in bringing forward amendments to change the constitution. In 1999 a constitutional amendment was brought forward and succeeded in eliminating ineffective provisions such as references to the poll tax and protecting Texan frontiers from hostile incursions by Indians (Brown, Langenegger Garcia, Lewis & Biles, 2013, p. 76). In November 2007, voters eliminated the constitutional county office of inspector of hides and animals that was created in the 1880s (Brown, Langenegger Garcia, Lewis & Biles, 2013, p. 76). This shows that the constitution can change without needing to be rewritten.
All attempts to change the constitution in the past have remained trusted to special interests that have controlled the process to prevent the constitution from being rewritten. A bipartisan led by a semi-retired instructor at McLennan Community College in Waco called Roy Walthall refused to make substantial changes to the Texan Constitution in 2010 because they did not want to upset their opponents (Brown, Langenegger Garcia, Lewis & Biles, 2013, p.73). Instead, they rearranged existing provisions to more logical sections and the governor would have to appoint a commission to study the reorganised constitution that would be deliberated for several sessions before being presented to voters (Brown, Langenegger Garcia, Lewis & Biles, 2013, p.73). This demonstrates how difficult the process of rewriting the constitution would be and that there are already provisions to make amendments when necessary.
Despite this, Texas is not the only state that has experienced problems in trying to revise their constitution. All states in America have written an average of three complete constitutions in their history, yet the leader is Louisiana with twelve and all have been amended roughly ten thousand times (Dinan, 2008). The process of amending state constitutions is deeply tricky and rewriting a state constitution could potentially prove to be even more difficult.
Nonetheless, although there is room to reform elements of the constitution and the process may take a long time as shown by the attempts other states have made to try and reform their own constitutions, rewriting the Texas Constitution still remains the best option. It is an excessively long and out-dated constitution. Written since 1876, the Texas Constitution has earned a reputation as being one of the longest and most disorganised constitutions in U.S. history as it is really difficult to read and incredibly confusing to people (Sandoval, 2011). Some politicians such as Representative John Smithee may argue that the length of time the constitution has survived for shows that it needs to be amended rather than rewritten (St. Peter, 1999). Yet it is very difficult for a document like the Texas Constitution to be adapted to the twenty-first century when it was written over one hundred years ago which shows why it is so crucial that the document is rewritten as soon as possible.
The Texas Constitution no longer serves the best interests of the voters that it was designed to represent and for many understandable reasons, voters are completely disillusioned with the Texas Constitution and want it reformed as soon as possible. Despite the fact that voters are presented with amendments to the constitution, turnout in elections to vote on proposed amendments is very low. This shows that the constitution needs to be rewritten immediately rather than being amended by people who have lost complete faith in the Texas Constitution. This was evident in 2011 when voters were asked to vote for seven of ten constitutional amendments on the ballot and only five per cent of people bothered to vote which was much less than 2009 when it was only eight per cent of the population that turned out to vote (Rangel, 2013). Another reason for this is because the amendments are normally minor, yet they come across as incredibly complex and long in what are supposed to be brief statements on the amendments as shown in the jeopardy over Proposition Six to authorise the withdrawal of two billion dollars from the rainy day fund to generate water projects (Rangel, 2013). If voters do not bother to turn out and vote, then it will add further weight to the argument that voters do not care about amending the constitution and those who do are only the special interests. A rewritten constitution would better serve Texas as it would pave the way for a governor whose executive power is not limited whose power is not divided between different state-wide officials who jealously guard over their jurisdiction and powers (Sandoval, 2011).
In conclusion, the arguments against rewriting the Texas Constitution only add more weight to the arguments in favour of rewriting the constitution as it is in desperate need to be rewritten. There may already be provisions to allow the constitution to be amended and there may be numerous difficulties in trying to rewrite it, but it is an out-dated document that is over one hundred years old and has been amended numerous times. This shows how the current document fails to work properly. Voters have become so disengaged with the constitution due to the amendments being so complicated that this has affected voter turnout considerably. A new constitution would better engage with people as it would not have so many complicated provisions that need to be changed constantly and would allow the governor to act in the best interests of the Texan people rather than being restricted by an executive only interested in retaining their own power.
Brown, Lyle, Langenegger, Joyce A., Garcia, Sonia R., Lewis, Ted & Biles, Robert E. (2013). Practising Texas Politics. Boston: Cengage Learning.
Dinan, John J. (2008). The American State Constitutional Tradition. Retrieved from: http://eh.net/book_reviews/the-american-state-constitutional-tradition/.
Rangel, Enrique (2013). Study: Texas ranks last for voter turnout, close to last for registration. Retrieved from: http://amarillo.com/news/local-news/2013-10-20/study-texas-ranks-last-voter-turnout-close-last-registration.
Sandoval, M. (2011). Reasons the Texas Constitution should be rewritten. Retrieved from: http://texaseconomyandpolitics.blogspot.co.uk/2011/11/reasons-constitution-of-texas-should-be.html.
St. Peter, Jeff (1999). Question: To reform or to rewrite? Retrieved from: http://amarillo.com/stories/1999/03/04/opi_question.shtml#.Vap_-0KM7ww.