As wise as our Founding Fathers were, they would be the first to admit that they were not infallible. Thus when they drafted the Constitution, they left it open to amendments, creating two different mechanisms by which the American people could change it. This has allowed our governing document to expand over time, adapting to two hundred years of social, political, and economic changes. By understanding the amendment process, you can follow efforts to change the Constitution and assess their chances of succeeding.
The Main Method
The primary way to amend the Constitution involves coordination between Congress and state legislatures, with super-majorities of both required to approve the measure. For an amendment to pass in this way, it must go through the following steps:
Because of the need for both congressional and state super-majorities, the overwhelming majority of proposed constitutional amendments do not become law. As of 3 January 2017, only 27 of the 11,699 proposals to amend the constitution have succeeded. Most proposed amendments do not even make it past their congressional committee, and even those that Congress passes have a hard time surviving state scrutiny.
Although the vast majority of attempted and successful amendments have involved Congress, state legislatures technically have the power to change the constitution on their own. To do this, legislatures in two-thirds of the states, or 34 states, must vote to hold a convention similar to the Convention of 1787 that created the Constitution in the first place. If enough states vote in favor, a convention is invoked, where states can propose amendments. Proposals must then be ratified by 38 state legislatures just as a congressional amendment would.
While this method is legal under the Constitution, attempts to use it are highly controversial. Many prominent political figures, both liberal and conservative, fear that holding a Convention would open the door to radically changing the original Constitution or even abandoning it entirely. These concerns help to explain why this method is so rare: even those who fervently want to pass an amendment are not willing to risk undermining the foundations of American governance.
There are currently 27 Amendments to the Untied States Constitution. Notable examples include:
Dozens of new constitutional amendments are proposed every year, and while most of them will fail, sooner or later one will succeed. The US Constitution is thus a living document, subject to change whenever enough Americans think it necessary.
https://www.archives.gov/federal-register/constitution/article-v.html; https://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/307/433/; http://www.tennessean.com/story/news/politics/2017/02/10/how-tennessee-could-help-start-constitutional-crisis/97741942/; https://www.senate.gov/pagelayout/reference/three_column_table/measures_proposed_to_amend_constitution.htm; http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/bill-of-rights-passes-congress; https://ourdocuments.gov/doc.php?flash=false&doc=100; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T99V6s25J94; https://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/amendmentxiii; https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2016/11/16/no-republicans-dont-control-enough-states-to-change-the-constitution-but-its-close/?utm_term=.76bef929d8dd; https://www.archives.gov/federal-register/constitution/article-v.html;Return | Legislation 101 | Committees | Voteopolis Integration | Lobbyists | Federal vs States | Constitutional Amendments