Introduction

In 1943, Supreme Court Justice Thomas J. Mabry, in a speech to the state bar of New Mexico, reflected on the writing of the 1910 convention of which he was a delegate:

New Mexico's interests were varied and, in many cases, rather conflicting, and the idea of writing a constitution [that] would fairly serve the people for decades and not years merely, and which would, at the same time, pass muster in a congress then divided, politically, with a democratic house and a republican senate, and which would meet the approval of a most conservative president, was no little problem.1 Justice, and later Governor, Mabry was correct when he prophesied that the 1910 constitution would fairly serve the people for decades and not years merely. In fact, taken as a whole, it has done so for nine decades, plus five years. However, as to amendment to that document by convention, in a little more than 20 years from 1943 the legislature would refute his observation about there being little interest for the calling of a constitutional convention. In 1969, a second constitutional convention was held and in 60 days offered to the voters a new, streamlined constitution. The revision was barely defeated by 3,702 votes. Mabry was historically correct, though, when he said, "All of the few essential amendments adopted have been made through the more simple and direct method.".2 The method to which he was referring is what we have since come to call "piecemeal Amendment".

Piecemeal amendment of the constitution of New Mexico since 1912 has produced more than a few "essential" amendments. Exclusive of the 1911 "Blue Ballot" amendment, there have been 152 changes to the 1910 document. If we were to apportion this total over the years since statehood, the changes would be the equivalent of 1.65 amendments for each of the 92 years of our state's existence.

A majority of the convention delegates did not see the need for many changes to "one of the grandest documents ever written for a people".3 And, but for the overriding - v - objection of congress, they would have given the voters one of the toughest amendment procedures ever written into a modern constitution. The fact that the citizens of this state have viewed the immutability of a written constitution differently than the delegates supports the admonition of Thomas Jefferson who, 126 years before the 1910 constitutional convention, maintained that no constitution can be "a perpetual law".