Constitutional Change

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How easily the US constitution can change and adapt to current circumstances and conditions is up for discussion. 

The US constitution is both rigid and flexible to a certain degree.

The founding fathers recognised the need to protect constitutional law from the "whim of temporary governments" and this is why the constitution is significantly difficult to change.

However, it can be argued that the US constitution is a living document that still has relevance today.

How can the constitution be changed?

The formal amendment process (Article 5)

  • Requires supermajorities of at least 2/3 of the vote in HOUSE and SENATE
  • Ratified by state legislatures, requiring 3/4 of states to approve (i.e. 13 states are needed to block)
  • Follows a long debate period
  • Requires clear agreement that change is necessary
  • There have only been 27 amendments since the constitution was written in 1787, this includes the 10 from the Bill of Rights

Some significant amendments:

  • Civil Rights Acts: 13th, 14th, 15th Amendments
  • Direct election to the Senate: 17th Amendment (1913)
  • Women's Suffrage: 19th Amendment (1921)
  • 18 Year Old Suffrage: 26th Amendment (1971)
  • Two-term Presidency: 22nd Amendment (1951)

Change through Supreme Court interpretation


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