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Indiana's 1816 Constitution specified in Article VIII that every twelfth year at the general election for governor, a poll should be taken to determine if electors favored calling a constitutional convention. Although there was much debate, this provision was interpreted to mean that the General Assembly could call for a convention at any time.
There were many attempts to call for a convention. The question of calling a constitutional convention, however, actually was submitted to voters only five times.
In 1823, the question of calling a convention was widely discussed in the popular newspapers of the day. The issues included:
As the chart on this page indicates, voters did not vote in favor of a new state constitution until 1846. The convention was not called, however, since the closeness of the vote indicated that a true public mandate did not yet exist. In addition, there were questions about the validity of the vote, which was small compared to the total votes in the election.
|State population and votes|
in referenda to call for a constitutional convention
|Sources: Kettleborough, 1:lii, lvii, lxi, lxvi, lxxvi; Madison, Indiana Way, 325-26|
The change in popular opinion reflected in the 1846 vote has been credited to several factors:
Popular interest and demand for a constitutional convention continued to grow. When the Indiana General Assembly of 1848-1849 assembled, Governor James Whitcomb recommended calling a constitutional convention to address several important issues:
The General Assembly responded with appropriate legislation calling for another constitutional referendum. Governor Paris C. Dunning signed the act on January 15, 1849. On August 6, 1849, voters favored the referendum by an indisputable majority.
On December 4, 1849, Governor Dunning addressed the General Assembly and called for legislation to implement the people's will.
Sources: Carmony, Pioneer Era, 405; Kettleborough, 1:xxxv, xlii, li, lxiii-lxxii, lxxiii, lxxv-lxxvii, 111.