Section 18. It is hereby declared to be the policy of the commonwealth that the general court, when called upon to act upon a proposed amendment to the federal constitution, should defer action until the opinion of the voters of the commonwealth has been taken, as herein provided, relative to the wisdom and expediency of ratifying the same; therefore, if a proposed amendment to the federal constitution is duly submitted to the general court as provided in article five of the constitution of the United States, and is not ratified at the session at which it is submitted, there shall be submitted to all the voters of the commonwealth at the following state election, if such an election is to occur prior to the next regular session of the general court, otherwise at such special or regular state election as the general court may order, the question whether such ratification is desirable. The question shall be placed upon the official ballot in the following form: ''Is it desirable that the proposed amendment to the constitution of the United States (describing the same) be ratified by the general court?'' The votes cast shall be received, sorted, counted, declared and transmitted to the state secretary, laid before the governor and council, and by them opened and examined in accordance with the laws relating to votes for state officers so far as they are applicable, and the governor shall thereupon communicate to the general court the total number of votes cast in the affirmative and in the negative for the proposed amendment, and likewise the same totals arranged by senatorial and representative districts. This section shall not authorize the taking of the opinion of the voters more than once in respect to any such proposed amendment unless otherwise provided by the general court.