How the Constitution Is Amended

How the Constitution Is Amended

( – When the Founding Fathers wrote the Constitution, they knew it might have to change as the country did. They were right.

The Constitution was ratified on December 7, 1787, but just four years later it changed dramatically. On December 15, 1791, three-fourths of the states agreed to ratify the first 10 amendments to the document. These were dubbed the Bill of Rights.

Since the time those changes were approved, the states have changed the Constitution 17 more times. But how do they do it?

Article V

Article V of the Constitution gives lawmakers the ability to change the founding document. Amending it isn’t easy, however. It’s so difficult in fact, the last time the states did it was in 1992, but it was for an amendment originally introduced in 1789.

The Process

If a representative wants to change the Constitution, Congress has to submit an amendment to the states. To pass it, two-thirds of both the House of Representatives and the Senate must agree.

Once Congress approves of the amendment, it goes to the states for ratification. The amendment is only approved if three-fourths of the states (38 of 50) ratify it, either during conventions or in their legislatures.

States may also propose amendments to the Constitution. It doesn’t necessarily have to go through Congress first. What really matters is that three-fourths of the states agree to ratify the proposals.

In our history, 33 amendments have been proposed, but the states have only ratified 27 of them. The process is why the Constitution is called a “living document.” The ability to change it as the times change, even though it’s not easy, is vital to the stability of the country. Had the Founding Fathers not thought of that, think of all the rights that would not exist.

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