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The Four Methods of Amending the United States Constitution

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As the United States has continued to grow and face unique challenges brought on through modern warfare, alliances, and technology, some critics have argued that the Framers of the Constitution could not have foreseen the changes the United States would experience

What can we do to update the Constitution to address these new issues? Well, the Framers thought of a solution: citizens could add changes to the Constitution.

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The notion of popular amendment comes from the conceptual framework of the Constitution. Its power derives from the people; it was adopted by the people; it functions at the behest of and for the benefit of the people. Given all this, if the people, as a whole, somehow demanded a change to the Constitution, should not the people be allowed to make such a change? As Wilson noted in 1787, "... the people may change the constitutions whenever and however they please. This is a right of which no positive institution can ever deprive them." It makes sense - if the people demand a change, it should be made. The change may not be the will of the Congress, nor of the states, so the two enumerated methods of amendment might not be practical, for they rely on these institutions. The real issue is not in the conceptual. It is a reality that if the people do not support the Constitution in its present form, it cannot survive. The real issue is in the practical

Since there is no process specified, what would the process be? There are no national elections today - even elections for the presidency are local. There is no precedent for a national referendum. It is easy to say that the Constitution can be changed by the people in any way the people wish. Actually making the change is another story altogether. Suffice it to say, for now, that the notion of popular amendment makes perfect sense in the constitutional framework, even though the details of effecting popular amendment could be impossible to resolve.

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The second procedure of passing constitutional amendments places the demand that two-thirds of the legislatures of the different states call for a constitutional convention

The constitutional convention may propose changes, as may deem fit, after which the amendments are to be approved by three-fourths of the states. The reason why a constitutional amendment is done is the supposed need to improve the contents or correct any errors or revise areas that evidently call for changes to the original context of the constitutional provisions inaugurated in 1978. Up to date, 27 constitutional amendments have been approved, while six others, which have been proposed during the history of the U.S., have been disapproved out rightly. Thousands of proposed amendments have been debated at the legislative level, though these have not been pushed to the other levels of the amendments process (U.S. Const. amend. V). The idea, in this case, was that the provisions fully gave the array under which the government would act and that the government would not act outside of the expressly accounted authority. From the fourteenth amendment of 1968, the government and local governments are limited to exercising anything beyond what is granted to their range of authority, expressly directing that the U.S. government cannot violate the bill of rights unless the area of contention is revised through an amendment. Another impact is that the bill of rights received autonomy in that it could not be amended by ordinary laws, but only by another provision of the constitution (U.S. Const. Art. V, § 1).

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To summarize, when we make a change or addition to the United States Constitution, it's known as 'amending' the Constitution. Any addition is treated as extra language, added onto the end of the Constitution, and is known as a constitutional amendment. Surprisingly, we have only 27 constitutional amendments.

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Patterson, T. E. (2009). The American democracy. New York: McGraw-Hill.

U.S. Const. amend XV “Right to vote”. (repealed1870).

U.S. Const. art. V, § 1 (repealed 1787).

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