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State constitution (United States)

State constitution (United States)

Overview
In the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

, each state
U.S. state
A U.S. state is any one of the 50 federated states of the United States of America that share sovereignty with the federal government. Because of this shared sovereignty, an American is a citizen both of the federal entity and of his or her state of domicile. Four states use the official title of...

has its own constitution
Constitution
A constitution is a set of fundamental principles or established precedents according to which a state or other organization is governed. These rules together make up, i.e. constitute, what the entity is...

.

Usually, they are longer than the 7,500-word federal Constitution
United States Constitution
The Constitution of the United States is the supreme law of the United States of America. It is the framework for the organization of the United States government and for the relationship of the federal government with the states, citizens, and all people within the United States.The first three...

 and are more detailed regarding the day-to-day relationships between government and the people. The shortest is the Constitution of Vermont
Constitution of Vermont
The Constitution of the State of Vermont is the fundamental body of law of the U.S. State of Vermont. It was adopted in 1793 following Vermont's admission to the Union in 1791 and is largely based upon the 1777 Constitution of Vermont which was ratified at Windsor in the Old Constitution House. At...

, adopted in 1793 and currently 8,295 words long. The longest is Alabama
Alabama
Alabama is a state located in the southeastern region of the United States. It is bordered by Tennessee to the north, Georgia to the east, Florida and the Gulf of Mexico to the south, and Mississippi to the west. Alabama ranks 30th in total land area and ranks second in the size of its inland...

's sixth and current constitution, ratified in 1901, at 357,157 words long. Both the federal
Federal government of the United States
The federal government of the United States is the national government of the constitutional republic of fifty states that is the United States of America. The federal government comprises three distinct branches of government: a legislative, an executive and a judiciary. These branches and...

 and state constitutions are organic texts
Organic law
An organic or fundamental law is a law or system of laws which forms the foundation of a government, corporation or other organization's body of rules. A constitution is a particular form of organic law for a sovereign state....

: they are the fundamental blueprints for the legal and political organizations of the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 and the states, respectively.

The Tenth Amendment to the United States Constitution
Tenth Amendment to the United States Constitution
The Tenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which is part of the Bill of Rights, was ratified on December 15, 1791...

, part of the Bill of Rights
United States Bill of Rights
The Bill of Rights is the collective name for the first ten amendments to the United States Constitution. These limitations serve to protect the natural rights of liberty and property. They guarantee a number of personal freedoms, limit the government's power in judicial and other proceedings, and...

, provides that "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people." The Guarantee Clause of Article 4
Article Four of the United States Constitution
Article Four of the United States Constitution relates to the states. The article outlines the duties states have to each other, as well as those the federal government has to the states...

 of the Constitution states that "The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government
Republic
A republic is a form of government in which the people, or some significant portion of them, have supreme control over the government and where offices of state are elected or chosen by elected people. In modern times, a common simplified definition of a republic is a government where the head of...

." These two provisions give states the wide latitude to adopt a constitution, the fundamental documents of state law
State law
In the United States, state law is the law of each separate U.S. state, as passed by the state legislature and adjudicated by state courts. It exists in parallel, and sometimes in conflict with, United States federal law. These disputes are often resolved by the federal courts.-See also:*List of U.S...

.

Typically state constitutions address a wide array of issues deemed by the states to be of sufficient importance to be included in the constitution rather than in an ordinary statute.
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Encyclopedia
In the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

, each state
U.S. state
A U.S. state is any one of the 50 federated states of the United States of America that share sovereignty with the federal government. Because of this shared sovereignty, an American is a citizen both of the federal entity and of his or her state of domicile. Four states use the official title of...

has its own constitution
Constitution
A constitution is a set of fundamental principles or established precedents according to which a state or other organization is governed. These rules together make up, i.e. constitute, what the entity is...

.

Usually, they are longer than the 7,500-word federal Constitution
United States Constitution
The Constitution of the United States is the supreme law of the United States of America. It is the framework for the organization of the United States government and for the relationship of the federal government with the states, citizens, and all people within the United States.The first three...

 and are more detailed regarding the day-to-day relationships between government and the people. The shortest is the Constitution of Vermont
Constitution of Vermont
The Constitution of the State of Vermont is the fundamental body of law of the U.S. State of Vermont. It was adopted in 1793 following Vermont's admission to the Union in 1791 and is largely based upon the 1777 Constitution of Vermont which was ratified at Windsor in the Old Constitution House. At...

, adopted in 1793 and currently 8,295 words long. The longest is Alabama
Alabama
Alabama is a state located in the southeastern region of the United States. It is bordered by Tennessee to the north, Georgia to the east, Florida and the Gulf of Mexico to the south, and Mississippi to the west. Alabama ranks 30th in total land area and ranks second in the size of its inland...

's sixth and current constitution, ratified in 1901, at 357,157 words long. Both the federal
Federal government of the United States
The federal government of the United States is the national government of the constitutional republic of fifty states that is the United States of America. The federal government comprises three distinct branches of government: a legislative, an executive and a judiciary. These branches and...

 and state constitutions are organic texts
Organic law
An organic or fundamental law is a law or system of laws which forms the foundation of a government, corporation or other organization's body of rules. A constitution is a particular form of organic law for a sovereign state....

: they are the fundamental blueprints for the legal and political organizations of the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 and the states, respectively.

The Tenth Amendment to the United States Constitution
Tenth Amendment to the United States Constitution
The Tenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which is part of the Bill of Rights, was ratified on December 15, 1791...

, part of the Bill of Rights
United States Bill of Rights
The Bill of Rights is the collective name for the first ten amendments to the United States Constitution. These limitations serve to protect the natural rights of liberty and property. They guarantee a number of personal freedoms, limit the government's power in judicial and other proceedings, and...

, provides that "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people." The Guarantee Clause of Article 4
Article Four of the United States Constitution
Article Four of the United States Constitution relates to the states. The article outlines the duties states have to each other, as well as those the federal government has to the states...

 of the Constitution states that "The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government
Republic
A republic is a form of government in which the people, or some significant portion of them, have supreme control over the government and where offices of state are elected or chosen by elected people. In modern times, a common simplified definition of a republic is a government where the head of...

." These two provisions give states the wide latitude to adopt a constitution, the fundamental documents of state law
State law
In the United States, state law is the law of each separate U.S. state, as passed by the state legislature and adjudicated by state courts. It exists in parallel, and sometimes in conflict with, United States federal law. These disputes are often resolved by the federal courts.-See also:*List of U.S...

.

Typically state constitutions address a wide array of issues deemed by the states to be of sufficient importance to be included in the constitution rather than in an ordinary statute. Often modeled after the federal Constitution, they outline the structure of the state government
State governments of the United States
State governments in the United States are those republics formed by citizens in the jurisdiction thereof as provided by the United States Constitution; with the original 13 States forming the first Articles of Confederation, and later the aforementioned Constitution. Within the U.S...

 and typically establish a bill of rights
Bill of rights
A bill of rights is a list of the most important rights of the citizens of a country. The purpose of these bills is to protect those rights against infringement. The term "bill of rights" originates from England, where it referred to the Bill of Rights 1689. Bills of rights may be entrenched or...

, an executive branch
Executive (government)
Executive branch of Government is the part of government that has sole authority and responsibility for the daily administration of the state bureaucracy. The division of power into separate branches of government is central to the idea of the separation of powers.In many countries, the term...

 headed by a governor
Governor (United States)
In the United States, the title governor refers to the chief executive of each state or insular territory, not directly subordinate to the federal authorities, but the political and ceremonial head of the state.-Role and powers:...

 (and often one or more other officials, such as a lieutenant governor
Lieutenant governor (United States)
In the United States, 43 of the 50 states have a separate, full-time office of lieutenant governor. In most cases, the lieutenant governor is the highest officer of state after the governor, standing in for that officer when he or she is absent from the state or temporarily incapacitated...

 and state attorney general
State Attorney General
The state attorney general in each of the 50 U.S. states and territories is the chief legal advisor to the state government and the state's chief law enforcement officer. In some states, the attorney general serves as the head of a state department of justice, with responsibilities similar to those...

), a state legislature, and state courts, including a state supreme court
State supreme court
In the United States, the state supreme court is the highest state court in the state court system ....

 (a few states have two high courts, one for civil cases, the other for criminal cases). Additionally, many other provisions may be included. Many state constitutions, unlike the federal constitution, also begin with an invocation of God
Constitutional references to God
Several national constitutions make reference to God, most often in the preamble. Such invocationes or nominationes dei are found notably in several European constitutional traditions and in the constitutions of Islamic countries.In constitutional...

.

Some states allow amendments to the Constitution
Constitutional amendment
A constitutional amendment is a formal change to the text of the written constitution of a nation or state.Most constitutions require that amendments cannot be enacted unless they have passed a special procedure that is more stringent than that required of ordinary legislation...

 by initiative.

Many states have had several constitutions over the course of its history.

The organized territories of the United States also have constitutions of their own, if they have an organized government through an Organic Act
Organic Act
An Organic Act, in United States law, is an Act of the United States Congress that establishes a territory of the United States or an agency to manage certain federal lands. The first such act was the Northwest Ordinance, enacted by the Congress of the Confederation in 1787 in order to create the...

 passed by the federal Congress
United States Congress
The United States Congress is the bicameral legislature of the federal government of the United States, consisting of the Senate and the House of Representatives. The Congress meets in the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C....

. These constitutions are subject to congressional approval and oversight, which is not the case with state constitutions. If territories wish to enter the Union (that is, to attain statehood), they seek an enabling act
Enabling act
An enabling act is a piece of legislation by which a legislative body grants an entity which depends on it for authorization or legitimacy the power to take certain actions. For example, enabling acts often establish government agencies to carry out specific government policies in a modern nation...

 from Congress and must draft an acceptable state constitution as a prerequisite to statehood.

List of constitutions


The following is a list of the current constitutions of the United States of America and its constituent political divisions. Each entry shows the ordinal number of the current constitution
Constitution
A constitution is a set of fundamental principles or established precedents according to which a state or other organization is governed. These rules together make up, i.e. constitute, what the entity is...

, the official name of the current constitution, and the date on which the current constitution took effect.

Federal constitution

No. it is Official name Date of effect Notes
Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union
Articles of Confederation
The Articles of Confederation, formally the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union, was an agreement among the 13 founding states that legally established the United States of America as a confederation of sovereign states and served as its first constitution...

Constitution of the United States of America
United States Constitution
The Constitution of the United States is the supreme law of the United States of America. It is the framework for the organization of the United States government and for the relationship of the federal government with the states, citizens, and all people within the United States.The first three...


State constitutions


Note that constitutions of states that were independent prior to admission, and constitutions used by states while participating in the American Civil War
American Civil War
The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...

 are not counted.
No. Official name Date of effect Notes

Federal district charter

No. Official name Date of effect Notes


The District of Columbia (Washington City in the District of Columbia) has a charter
Charter
A charter is the grant of authority or rights, stating that the granter formally recognizes the prerogative of the recipient to exercise the rights specified...

 similar to charters of major cities, instead of having a constitution like the states and territories. The District of Columbia Home Rule Act
District of Columbia Home Rule Act
The District of Columbia Home Rule Act is a United States federal law passed on December 24, 1973 which devolved certain congressional powers of the District of Columbia to local government, furthering District of Columbia home rule...

 establishes the Council of the District of Columbia
Council of the District of Columbia
The Council of the District of Columbia is the legislative branch of the local government of the District of Columbia. As permitted in the United States Constitution, the District is not part of any U.S. state and is instead overseen directly by the federal government...

 which governs the entire district and has certain devolved powers similar to those of major cities. Congress has full authority over the district and may amend the charter and any legislation enacted by the Council.
Attempts at statehood for the District of Columbia
D.C. Statehood
The District of Columbia statehood movement is a political movement that advocates making the District of Columbia a U.S. state. Statehood would give the citizens of Washington, D.C. full representation in the United States Congress and full control over their own local affairs.Full statehood for D.C...

 have included the drafting of two constitutions in 1982 and 1987 respectively referring to the district as the State of New Columbia.

Territorial constitutions

  • 1st Constitution of the Territory of American Samoa, 1 July 1967 (at Politics of American Samoa
    Politics of American Samoa
    Politics of American Samoa takes place in a framework of a presidential representative democratic dependency, whereby the Governor is the head of government, and of a pluriform multi-party system. American Samoa is an unincorporated and unorganized territory of the United States, administered by...

    ).
  • The Territory of Guam does not have its own constitution, but operates under the Guam Organic Act of 1950
    Guam Organic Act of 1950
    The Guam Organic Act of 1950, is a United States federal law that redesignated the island of Guam as an unincorporated territory of the United States, established executive, legislative, and judicial branches, and transferred Federal jurisdiction from the United States Navy to the Department of...

     and other federal statutes.
  • 1st Constitution of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, 3 November 1986.
  • 1st Constitution of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, 25 July 1952.
  • The United States Virgin Islands
    United States Virgin Islands
    The Virgin Islands of the United States are a group of islands in the Caribbean that are an insular area of the United States. The islands are geographically part of the Virgin Islands archipelago and are located in the Leeward Islands of the Lesser Antilles.The U.S...

    , an unincorporated organized territory, does not have its own constitution, instead operating under various federal statutes. See politics of the United States Virgin Islands
    Politics of the United States Virgin Islands
    Politics of the United States Virgin Islands takes place in a framework of a presidential representative democratic dependency, whereby the Governor is the head of the local government, and of a multi-party system...

    .

External links