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Study Notes

Amendment Process

AQA, Edexcel, OCR, IB

Last updated 22 Mar 2021

The Amendment Process for the US Constitution is a difficult one, and it was designed to be so. The Founding Fathers believed that the Constitution should be intentionally difficult to amend, so that it isn’t subject to the political whims of the day, and that the Constitution should remain the higher law of the land.

However, the amendments process was created in order to give some flexibility to the Constitution, but that flexibility relied on popular support from not just Congress but also the States themselves. All of this is outlined in Article V of the Constitution. There are two ways in which the Constitution can be amended, however, despite the existence of two ways, only one has ever been used

The first method is quite similar to the passage of legislation. Congress will issue a joint resolution which must pass both chambers with two thirds majorities or super majorities. At the point, the resolution or amendment to be, is sent to all 50 states. Note that the President is not involved at any stage in the amendment process. Once all 50 states have the resolution, it is up to the state legislatures to vote on the amendment. If three quarters of the state legislatures approve the amendment with a simple majority vote then the amendment will be added to the constitution.

The second method is slightly different, and has never been used to initiate constitutional amendments. A constitutional convention can be called to draft amendments, if it is wished by two thirds of all the states.

Interesting Amendments

27th Amendment: Congress proposed the amendment in September 1789, but it wasn’t until 1992 that the requisite number of states had ratified the amendment.

Child Labour Amendment: This amendment has been pending since 1924, and currently has 28 states approving of it, but is still falling short of the required total.

Every Vote Counts Amendment: Introduced to Congress in 2009 in order to abolish the Electoral College and have the President elected by popular vote. The amendment died in Congress.

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