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?


Bowie, Crow and Amendments

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

In his 1971 hit single, “Changes,” Brit David Bowie sang about the changes artists often confront while reinventing themselves and their crafts.  Besides Bowie, countless other singers and singer-songwriters over the years have focused on the concept of change.  In 2010, Robin Raven highlighted 10 modern songs about change in the online article, “10 Best Songs About Change,” and Bowie’s “Changes” made the list.

You may know something about evolving as an individual, but are you familiar with the process for changing the U.S. Constitution?  Do you know which of the seven Articles within the Constitution deals with changing the document?

Article Five describes how the Constitution may be amended and how Amendments to the Constitution can be proposed and ratified.

According to Article Five, there are only two ways in which an Amendment may be proposed.  Changes can be proposed either by:  1- two-thirds votes of both houses of the U.S. Congress or 2- a national convention requested by legislatures of at least two-thirds of U.S. states.  According to Wikipedia, “All of the ratified and unratified amendments” have been proposed by the first method.”

Article Five also identifies two ways in which proposed Amendments may be ratified.  The two ways to ratify an Amendment are: 1- ratification by the legislatures of three-fourths of the states and 2-ratification by state conventions of three-fourths of the states.  According to Wikipedia, “only the Twenty-first Amendment” has used the second method.

Wikipedia highlights that U.S. Representatives and Senators typically propose up to 200 amendments during each year, but “most amendments never get out of Congressional committees.”  In fact, only 27 Amendments to the U.S. Constitution have been ratified to date.  And, did you know that the Twenty-seventh Amendment was ratified in 1993 and 203 years after originally being submitted to the states for ratification?

Without doubt, in crafting Article Five, our Founding Fathers made sure that changing our Constitution would not be an easy task.

What about the changes that you’ve made in your life to date?  Have you applied the same sort of conservative, serious “Constitutional” approach when making significant life changes?  Have you made quick or slow important life decisions?

And, would you agree with singer-songwriter Sheryl Crow that “a change would do you good?

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