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Encyclopedia > Constitutional amendment

An amendment is a change to the constitution of a nation or a state. In jurisdictions with "rigid" or "entrenched" constitutions amendments require a special procedure different from that used for enacting ordinary laws. Look up amend in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ...


Amendment procedures

Flexible constitutions

A flexible constitution is one that may be amended by a simple act of the legislature, in the same way as it passes ordinary laws. The 'uncodified' constitution of the United Kingdom (Uf important statutes, and partly of certain unwritten conventions. The statutes that make up the UK constitution can be amended by a simple act of Parliament. UK constitutional conventions are held to evolve organically over time. The Basic Laws of Israel may be amended by an act of the Knesset. A constitutional convention is an informal and uncodified procedural agreement that is followed by the institutions of a state. ... The Basic Laws of Israel are a key component of Israels uncodified constitution. The State of Israel has no formal constitution. ... Type Unicameral Speaker of the Knesset Dalia Itzik, Kadima since May 4, 2006 Deputy Speaker Majalli Wahabi, Kadima since May 4, 2006 Members 120 Political groups Kadima Labour-Meimad Shas Likud Last elections March 28, 2006 Meeting place Knesset, Jerusalem, Israel Web site www. ...

Special majority

The constitutions of a great many nations provide that they may be amended by the legislature, but only by a special, extra large majority of votes cast (also known as a supermajority, or a "qualified" or "weighted" majority). This is usually a majority of two-thirds the total number of votes cast. In a bicameral parliament it may be required that a special majority be achieved in both chambers of the legislature. In addition, many constitutions require a that an amendment receive the votes of a minimum absolute number of members, rather than simply the support of those present at a meeting of the legislature which is in quorum. For example, the German 'Basic Law' (the Grundgesetz) may be amended with the consent of a majority of two-thirds in both the Bundestag (lower house) and Bundesrat (upper house). The constitution of Brazil may be amended with the consent of both houses of Congress by a majority of three-fifths. An amendment to the Australian Constitution requires both a majority of the voters nationally and a majority of the voters in a majority of the States i.e. the measure must be carried in four of the six States as well as nationally. A supermajority or a qualified majority is a requirement for a proposal to gain a specified level or type of support which exceeds a simple majority in order to have effect. ... Look up quorum in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ... Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany The Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany (German: Grundgesetz für die Bundesrepublik Deutschland) is the constitution[1] of Germany. ... Type Lower house President of the Bundestag Dr. Norbert Lammert, CDU since October 18, 2005 Members 614 Political groups (as of September 18, 2005 elections) Christian Democratic Union/Christian Social Union of Bavaria Bloc (226), Social Democratic Party of Germany (222), Free Democratic Party (61), The Left Party. ... The Bundesrat (federal council) is the representation of the 16 Federal States (Länder) of Germany at the federal level. ... The Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act 1900 (in full, An Act to constitute the Commonwealth of Australia) is the primary constitutional text of the Commonwealth of Australia. ...


Some constitutions may only be amended with the direct consent of the electorate in a referendum. In some states a decision to submit an amendment to the electorate must first be taken by the legislature. In others a constitutional referendum may be triggered by a citizen's initiative. The constitutions of the Republic of Ireland, Denmark, Japan and Australia are amended by means of a referendum first proposed by parliament. The constitutions of Switzerland and of several United States states may be amendeded through the process of popular initiative. Elections Part of the Politics series Politics Portal This box:      A referendum (plural: referendums or referenda) or plebiscite (from Latin plebiscita, originally a decree of the Concilium Plebis) is a direct vote in which an entire electorate is asked to either accept or reject a particular proposal. ... initiative, see Initiative (disambiguation). ... A U.S. state is any one of the 50 states which have membership of the federation known as the United States of America (USA or U.S.). The separate state governments and the U.S. federal government share sovereignty. ...

Successive majorities

Some jurisdictions require that an amendment be approved by the legislature on two separate occasions during two separate but consecutive terms, with a general election in the interim. Under some of these constitutions there must be a dissolution of the legislature and an immediate general election on the occasion that an amendment is adopted for the first time. Examples include the constitutions of Iceland, Denmark, the Netherlands and Norway. This method is also common in subnational entities, such as the United States state of Wisconsin. A general election is an election in which all or most members of a given political body are up for election. ... Official language(s) None Capital Madison Largest city Milwaukee Largest metro area Greater Milwaukee Area  Ranked 23rd  - Total 65,498 sq mi (169,790 km²)  - Width 260 miles (420 km)  - Length 310 miles (500 km)  - % water 17  - Latitude 42° 30′ N to 47° 05′ N  - Longitude 86° 46′ W to...

Special requirements in federations

An amendment to the United States Constitution must be ratified by three-quarters of either the state legislatures, or of constitutional conventions specially elected in each of the states, before it can come into effect [1]. In Canada different types of amendments require different combinations of provincial governments representing certain percentages of the national population to assent. In referendums to amend the constitutions of Australia and Switzerland it is required that a proposal be endorsed not just by an overall majority of the electorate in the nation as a whole, but also by separate majorities in each of a majority of the states or cantons. In addition, if an Australian referendum specifically impacts one or more states then a majority of the electorate in each of those states must also endorse the proposal. Wikisource has original text related to this article: The United States Constitution The United States Constitution is the supreme law of the United States of America. ... hi:Alternative meaning: Constitutional convention (political custom) A constitutional convention is a gathering of delegates for the purpose of writing a new constitution or revising an existing constitution. ...

Mixed systems

In practice, many jurisdictions combine elements of more than one of the usual amendment procedures. For example, the French constitution may be amended by one of two processes: either a special legislative majority or a referendum. On the other hand, an amendment to the constitution of the U.S. Commonwealth of Massachusetts must first be endorsed by a special majority in the legislature during two consecutive terms, and is then submitted to a referendum. Some states such as Wisconsin use the same process but do not require supermajorities. The current Constitution of France was adopted on October 4, 1958, and has been amended 17 times, most recently on March 28, 2003. ... This article is about the U.S. state. ... A supermajority or a qualified majority is a requirement for a proposal to gain a specified level or type of support which exceeds a simple majority in order to have effect. ...

Some constitutions provide that their different provisions must be amended in different ways. Most provisions of the constitution of Lithuania may be amended by a special legislative majority but a change to the status of the state as an "independent democratic republic" must be endorsed by a three-quarters majority in a referendum [2]. Unlike its other provisions, a referendum is required to amend that part of the constitution of Iceland that deals with the relationship between church and state [3].

Inadmissible amendments

Some constitutions use entrenched clauses to restrict the kind of amendment to which they may be subject. This is usually to protect characteristics of the state considered sacrosanct, such as the democratic form of government or the protection of fundamental human rights. Amendments are often totally forbidden during a state of emergency or martial law. An entrenched clause of a constitution is a provision which makes certain amendments either more difficult than others or impossible. ... For other uses, see State of emergency (disambiguation). ... For other uses, see Martial law (disambiguation). ...

  • Under Article 79 of Chapter 7 of the German basic Law, modification of the federal nature of the country or abolition of Article 1 [Human dignity] or 20 [Basic Principles of State] is forbidden.
  • The final article of the Constitution of Italy (Article 139, Section 2, Title 6 of Part 2) holds the "form of Republic" above amendment.
  • Article 4 of Part 1 of the Constitution of Turkey states that the "... provision of Article 1 of the Constitution establishing the form of the state as a Republic, the provisions in Article 2 on the characteristics of the Republic, and the provision of Article 3 shall not be amended, nor shall their amendment be proposed."
  • Article Five of the United States Constitution, ratified in 1788, prohibited any amendments before 1808 which would affect the slave trade, the tax on the slave trade, or the direct taxation provisions of the constitution. If the Corwin amendment had passed, any amendment to the United States Constitution "interfering with the domestic institutions of the state" (i.e. slavery) would have been banned.
  • In addition, Article Five of the U.S. Constitution prohibits any amendments which would deprive a state of its "equal Suffrage in the Senate" without that state's consent. Most legal scholars interpret this to mean that any amendment to deprive a state of its equal suffrange in the Senate would have to be ratified by all 50 states.
  • Chapter 6, Article 120, section c of the Constitution of Bahrain prohibits "...an amendment to Article 2 [State Religion, Shari'a, Official Language] of this Constitution, and it is not permissible under any circumstances to propose the amendment of the constitutional monarchy and the principle of inherited rule in Bahrain, as well as the bicameral system and the principles of freedom and equality established in this Constitution."
  • Article 112 of the Constitution of Norway provides that amendments must not "contradict the principles embodied in this Constitution, but solely relate to modifications of particular provisions which do not alter the spirit of the Constitution".
  • Section 284 of Article 18 of the Alabama State Constitution states that legislative representation is based on population, and any amendments are precluded from changing that.
  • The Constitution of Portugal (Part 4, Section 1, Article 288) contains a long list (15 items) of things which amendments "must respect".
  • The Supreme Court of India in the Kesavananda Bharti case held that no constitutional amendment can destroy the basic structure of the Indian constitution.
  • Article 60 of the Constitution of Brazil forbids amendments that intend to abolish individual rights or to alter the fundamental framework of the State—the Separation of Powers and the Federal Republic.

To meet Wikipedias quality standards, this article may require cleanup. ... Wikisource has original text related to this article: Constitution of the Republic of Turkey The current Constitution of Turkey, ratified in 1982, establishes the organization of the government of the Republic of Turkey and sets out the principles and rules of the states conduct along with its responsibilities towards... Article Five of the United States Constitution describes the process whereby the Constitution may be altered. ... This is a disambiguation page — a navigational aid which lists other pages that might otherwise share the same title. ... The Corwin Amendment is a proposed amendment to the United States Constitution. ... Slave redirects here. ... Bahrain has had two constitutions in its modern history. ... The Constitution of Norway was first adopted on May 16, 1814 by the Norwegian Constituent Assembly at Eidsvoll (a small town north of the countrys capital, Christiania), then signed and dated May 17. ... The Alabama Constitution is the basic governing document of the U.S. state of Alabama. ... This article does not cite any references or sources. ... The Supreme Court of India is the highest court of the land as established by Part V, Chapter IV of the Constitution of India. ... The Basic Structure doctrine is the judge-made doctrine whereby certain features of the Constitution of India are beyond the limit of the powers of amendment the Parliament of India. ... This article or section does not cite its references or sources. ... The Politics series Politics Portal This box:      Separation of powers is a term coined by French political Enlightenment thinker Baron de Montesquieu[1][2], is a model for the governance of democratic states. ... For theological federalism, see Covenant Theology. ... Look up republic in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ...

Form of changes to the text

There are a number of formal differences, from one jurisdiction to another, in the manner in which constitutional amendments are both originally drafted and written down once they become law. In some jurisdictions, such as the Republic of Ireland, Estonia and Australia, constitutional amendments originate as bills and become laws in the form of acts of parliament. This may be the case notwithstanding the fact that a special procedure is required to bring an amendment into force. Thus, for example, in Republic of Ireland and Australia although amendments are drafted in the form of Acts of Parliament they cannot become law until they have been approved in a referendum. By contrast, in the United States a proposed amendment originates as a joint resolution of Congress rather than a bill and, unlike a bill, is not submitted to the President for his assent. A bill is a proposed new law introduced within a legislature that has not been ratified, adopted, or received assent. ... An Act of Parliament or Act is law enacted by the parliament (see legislation). ... A joint resolution is a legislative measure of the United States of America, designated as S.J.Res (for the Senate version) and H.J.Res (for the House version), which requires the approval of both chambers of the United States Congress. ... Federal courts Supreme Court Circuit Courts of Appeal District Courts Elections Presidential elections Midterm elections Political Parties Democratic Republican Third parties State & Local government Governors Legislatures (List) State Courts Local Government Other countries Atlas  US Government Portal      For other uses, see President of the United States (disambiguation). ...

The manner in which constitutional amendments are finally recorded takes two main forms. In most jurisdictions, amendments to a constitution take the form of revisions to the main body of the original text. Thus once an amendment has become law, portions of the original text may be deleted or new articles may be inserted among existing ones. The second, less common method, is for amendments to be appended to the end of the main text in the form of special articles of amendment, leaving the body of the original text intact. Although the wording of the original text is not altered, the doctrine of implied repeal applies. In other words, in the event of conflict, an article of amendment will usually take precedence over the provisions of the original text, or of an earlier amendment. Nonetheless, there may still be ambiguity as to whether an amendment is intended to supersede an existing article in the text or merely to supplement it. An article of amendment may, however, explicitly express itself as having the effect of repealing a specific existing article [4]. The use of appended articles of amendment is most famous as a feature of the United States Constitution, but it is also the method of amendment in a number of other jurisdictions, such as Venezuela.

The Constitution of Austria is unusually liberal regarding the recording of constitutional amendments. Any piece of parliamentary legislation can be designated as "constutional law", i.e. as a part of the constitution if the required supermajority and other formalities for an amendment are met. An amendment may take the form of a change of the B-VG, the centerpiece of the the constitution, a change to another constitutional act, a new constitutional act, or of a section of constitutional law in a non-constitutional act. Furthermore, international treaties can be enaced as constitutional law, as in the case of the European Convention of Human Rights. Over the decades, frequent amendments and, in some cases, the intention to immunize pieces of legislation from judicial review have led to an enormous amount of "constitutional garbage" consisting of hundreds of constitutional provisions spread all over the legal system. In recent years, this has increasingly led to calls for reform. The Constitution of Austria (Österreichische Bundesverfassung) is the body of all constitutional law of the Republic of Austria on the federal level. ... It has been suggested that Protocol (treaty) be merged into this article or section. ... The European Convention on Human Rights (1950) was adopted under the auspices of the Council of Europe† to protect human rights and fundamental freedoms. ... Judicial review is the power of a court to review the actions of public sector bodies in terms of their legality or constitutionality. ...

See also

Different countires constitutions have different, sometimes multiple, processes for amending them. ... Amendments to the Constitution of Canada are changes to the Constitution of Canada initiated by the government. ... An amendment may be made to any part of Bunreacht na hÉireann, the constitution of the Republic of Ireland, but only by referendum. ... This page lists all ratified and unratified amendments to the United States Constitution, as well as some proposals for amendments. ... // Codified constitutions Afghanistan Albania Algeria Andorra Angola Argentina Armenia Australia Austria — titled Bundesverfassungsgesetz Bangladesh Bahrain Belarus Belgium — titled De Belgische Grondwet in Flemish Bosnia and Herzegovina (Dayton Agreement, 1995) Brazil Canada (1982) Chile China, Peoples Republic of Hong Kong Macau Tibet China, Republic of - Taiwan Colombia Congo, Democratic Republic... // Federal Referendums In Australia, referendums are nationwide polls held to approve government-proposed changes to the Australian constitution. ...


  1. ^ Some argue that with demographic changes the bar originally set for amendment of the U.S. Constitution is now too high.
  2. ^ Article 1.
  3. ^ As of 2004 the relevant article is Article 62 which establishes the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Other provisions may be amended by a special legislative majority.
  4. ^ See by way of example the 21st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution on the repeal of prohibition. Section 1 of the article repeals the 18th Amendment.

The National Church of Iceland, or Þjóðkirkjan, formally called the Evangelical Lutheran Church, is the state church in Iceland. ... Amendment XXI (the Twenty-first Amendment) to the United States Constitution repealed the Eighteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which had mandated nationwide Prohibition. ... The term Prohibition, also known as A Dry Law, refers to a law in a certain country by which the manufacture, transportation, import, export, and sale of alcoholic beverages is restricted or illegal. ... Amendment XVIII in the National Archives Prohibition agents destroying barrels of alcohol. ...


  • "Amendment", by Peter Suber. From Philosophy of Law: An Encyclopedia, edited by Christopher Berry Gray, Garland Pub. Co., 1999, vol. I, pp. 31–32.
  • The Paradox of Self-Amendment: A Study of Logic, Law, Omnipotence, and Change, by Peter Suber. Full-text of the book, now out of print. Peter Lang Publishing, 1990. For an essay-length synopsis, see "The Paradox of Self-Amendment in American Constitutional Law", Stanford Literature Review, 7, 1–2 (Spring–Fall 1990) 53–78.
  • "Population Changes and Constitutional Amendments: Federalism versus Democracy", by Peter Suber. University of Michigan Journal of Law Reform, 20, 2 (Winter 1987) 409–490.
  • "Unamendments", by Jason Mazzone, Iowa Law Review, Vol. 90, p. 1747–1855, 2005.

  Results from FactBites:
Constitutional amendment - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (1696 words)
A constitutional amendment is an alteration to the constitution of a nation or a state.
The constitution of Brazil may be amended with the consent of both houses of Congress by a majority of three-fifths.
On the other hand, an amendment to the constitution of the US state of Massachusetts must first be endorsed by a special majority in the legislature during two consecutive terms, and is then submitted to a referendum.
Constitutional Amendments - The U.S. Constitution Online - USConstitution.net (1047 words)
The amendment as passed may specify whether the bill must be passed by the state legislatures or by a state convention.
Amendments are sent to the legislatures of the states by default.
For example, before the Privacy Cases, it was perfectly constitutional for a state to forbid married couples from using contraception; for a state to forbid fls and whites to marry; to abolish abortion.
  More results at FactBites »



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