Five and Some Change

Pencil eraser image

Pencil eraser image

This post is part of a 2012 monthly series of posts on the topic of the U.S. Constitution.

The state of North Carolina witnessed a historic vote this past Tuesday, as a majority of citizens voted and approved legislatively-referred Amendment 1, a ballot initiative to amend the North Carolina Constitution to define marriage as between one man and one woman.  You can read more about NC Amendment 1 on

What about federal amendments and changes to the U.S. Constitution?  What is the process for changing the most important document in the United States?

Article Five of the Constitution describes the process for making changes to the document.  According to Wikipedia, Article Five provides that:

“Amendments may be proposed by either two-thirds of both houses of the United States Congress or by a national convention. This convention can be assembled at the request of the legislatures of at least two-thirds of the several states. To become part of the Constitution, amendments must then be ratified either by approval of the legislatures of three-fourths of the states or ratifying conventions held in three-fourths of the states. Congress has discretion as to which method of ratification should be used. Any amendment so ratified becomes a valid part of the constitution, provided that no state ‘shall be deprived of its equal Suffrage in the senate,’ without its consent.”

Do you know which federal amendments have been unanimously ratified by the states?  The answer is:

1 – the Bill of Rights;
2- the Thirteenth Amendment (abolished slavery);
3- the Fourteenth Amendment (provided for equal protection and due process);
4- the Fifteenth Amendment (prohibited racial discrimination in voting); and
5- the Nineteenth Amendment (gave women the federal right to vote).

None of the above changes to the U.S. Constitution could have happened without the existence of Article Five.   You can read the text of Article Five here:

Article Five

Article Five

If you could change the U.S. Constitution or your state’s Constitution, what changes would you make?


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