State constitution (United States)

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In the United States, each state has its own constitution.

Usually, they are longer than the 8,500-word federal Constitution and are more detailed regarding the day-to-day relationships between government and the people. The shortest is the Constitution of Vermont, adopted in 1793 and currently 8,295 words long. The longest is Alabama's sixth and current constitution, ratified in 1901, at 357,157 words long. Both the federal and state constitutions are organic texts: they are the fundamental blueprints for the legal and political organizations of the United States and the states, respectively.

The Tenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, part of the Bill of Rights, 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 of the Constitution states that "The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government." These two provisions indicate states did not surrender their wide latitude to adopt a constitution, the fundamental documents of state law, when the U.S. Constitution was adopted.

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 and typically establish a bill of rights, an executive branch headed by a governor (and often one or more other officials, such as a lieutenant governor and state attorney general), a state legislature, and state courts, including a state supreme court (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.

Some states allow amendments to the Constitution by initiative.

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

The organized territories of the United States also have constitutions or organic acts of their own, if they have an organized government through an Organic Act passed by the federal Congress. 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 from Congress and must draft an acceptable state constitution as a prerequisite to statehood.

List of constitutions[edit]

The following is a list of the current constitutions of the United States of America and its constituent political divisions. Each entry shows the original number of the current constitution, the official name of the current constitution, and the date on which the current constitution took effect.

Federal constitution[edit]

No.Official nameDate of effectNotes
1stArticles of Confederation and Perpetual UnionMarch 1, 1781[1]
2ndConstitution of the United States of AmericaMarch 4, 1789

State constitutions[edit]

Note that constitutions of states that were independent prior to admission, and constitutions used by states while participating in the American Civil War are not counted.

No.Official nameDate of effectNotes
6thAlabama, Constitution of the State ofConstitution of the State of AlabamaNovember 28, 1901
1stAlaska, Constitution of the State ofConstitution of the State of AlaskaJanuary 3, 1959
1stArizona, Constitution of the State ofConstitution of the State of ArizonaFebruary 14, 1912
4thArkansas, Constitution of the State ofConstitution of the State of ArkansasOctober 13, 1874
2ndCalifornia, Constitution of the State ofConstitution of the State of CaliforniaJanuary 1, 1880
1stColorado, Constitution of the State ofConstitution of the State of ColoradoAugust 1, 1876
2ndConnecticut, Constitution of the State ofConstitution of the State of ConnecticutDecember 30, 1965
4thDelaware, Constitution of the State ofConstitution of the State of DelawareJune 10, 1897
5thFlorida, Constitution of the State ofConstitution of the State of FloridaJanuary 7, 1969
9thGeorgia, Constitution of the State ofConstitution of the State of GeorgiaJuly 1, 1983
1stHawaiiConstitution of the State of HawaiʻiAugust 21, 1959[2]
1stIdaho, Constitution of the State ofConstitution of the State of IdahoJuly 3, 1890
4thIllinois, Constitution of the State ofConstitution of the State of IllinoisJuly 1, 1971
2ndIndiana, Constitution of the State ofConstitution of the State of IndianaNovember 1, 1851
2ndIowa, Constitution of the State ofConstitution of the State of IowaAugust 3, 1857
1stKansas, Constitution of the State ofConstitution of the State of KansasJanuary 29, 1861[3]
4thKentucky, Constitution of the Commonwealth ofConstitution of the Commonwealth of KentuckyAugust 3, 1891
9thLouisiana, Constitution of the State ofConstitution of the State of LouisianaJanuary 1, 1975
1stMaine, Constitution of the State ofConstitution of the State of MaineMarch 3, 1820[4]
4thMaryland, Constitution of the State ofConstitution of the State of MarylandOctober 5, 1867
1stMassachusetts, Constitution of the Commonwealth ofConstitution of the Commonwealth of MassachusettsOctober 25, 1780[5]
4thMichigan, Constitution of the State ofConstitution of the State of MichiganJanuary 1, 1964
1stMinnesota, Constitution of the State ofConstitution of the State of MinnesotaMay 11, 1858
4thMississippi, Constitution of the State ofConstitution of the State of MississippiNovember 1, 1890
4thMissouri, Constitution of the State ofConstitution of the State of MissouriMarch 30, 1945
2ndMontana, Constitution of the State ofConstitution of the State of MontanaJuly 1, 1973
2ndNebraska, Constitution of the State ofConstitution of the State of NebraskaNovember 1, 1875
1stNevada, Constitution of the State ofConstitution of the State of NevadaOctober 31, 1864
3rdNew Hampshire, Constitution of the State ofConstitution of the State of New HampshireJune 5, 1793[6]
3rdNew Jersey, Constitution of the State ofConstitution of the State of New JerseyJanuary 1, 1948
1stNew Mexico, Constitution of the State ofConstitution of the State of New MexicoJanuary 6, 1912
4thNew York, Constitution of the State ofConstitution of the State of New YorkJanuary 1, 1895[7]
4thNorth Carolina, Constitution of the State ofConstitution of the State of North CarolinaJuly 1, 1971
1stNorth Dakota, Constitution of the State ofConstitution of the State of North DakotaNovember 2, 1889
2ndOhio, Constitution of the State ofConstitution of the State of OhioSeptember 1, 1851
1stOklahoma, Constitution of the State ofConstitution of the State of OklahomaNovember 16, 1907
1stOregon, Constitution of the State ofConstitution of the State of OregonFebruary 14, 1859
4thPennsylvania, Constitution of the Commonwealth ofConstitution of the Commonwealth of PennsylvaniaJanuary 1, 1874[8]
2ndRhode Island and Providence Plantations, Constitution of the State ofConstitution of the State of Rhode Island and Providence PlantationsMay 2, 1843
6thSouth Carolina, Constitution of the State ofConstitution of the State of South CarolinaJanuary 1, 1896
1stSouth Dakota, Constitution of the State ofConstitution of the State of South DakotaNovember 2, 1889
3rdTennessee, Constitution of the State ofConstitution of the State of TennesseeMarch 26, 1870
4thTexas, Constitution of the State ofConstitution of the State of TexasFebruary 17, 1876[9]
1stUtah, Constitution of the State ofConstitution of the State of UtahJanuary 4, 1896
1stVermont, Constitution of the State ofConstitution of the State of VermontJuly 9, 1793[10]
7thVirginia, Constitution of the Commonwealth ofConstitution of the Commonwealth of VirginiaJuly 1, 1971
1stWashington, Constitution of the State ofConstitution of the State of WashingtonNovember 11, 1889
2ndWest Virginia, Constitution of the State ofConstitution of the State of West VirginiaAugust 22, 1872
1stWisconsin, Constitution of the State ofConstitution of the State of WisconsinMay 29, 1848
1stWyoming, Constitution of the State ofConstitution of the State of WyomingJuly 10, 1890

Federal district charter[edit]

No.Official nameDate of effectNotes
1stDistrict of Columbia, Charter of theCharter of the District of ColumbiaDecember 24, 1973

The District of Columbia (Washington City in the District of Columbia) has a charter similar to charters of major cities, instead of having a constitution like the states and territories. The District of Columbia Home Rule Act establishes the Council of the District of Columbia 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 have included the drafting of two constitutions in 1982[11] and 1987[12] respectively referring to the district as the State of New Columbia.

Territorial constitutions[edit]

Organic acts[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Despite its very different title, the United States Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union, adopted on November 15, 1777, and ratified on March 1, 1781, was actually the first constitution of the United States of America. See Christian G. Fritz, American Sovereigns: The People and America's Constitutional Tradition Before the Civil War (Cambridge University Press, 2008) at p. 131 [ISBN 978-0-521-88188-3 (noting that "Madison, along with other Americans clearly understood" the Articles of Confederation "to be the first federal Constitution.")
  2. ^ Excludes the constitutions of the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi and the Republic of Hawaiʻi.
  3. ^ The Wyandotte Constitution supplanted the rejected Topeka Constitution, Lecompton Constitution, and Leavenworth Constitution.
  4. ^ Excludes the 1876 recodification of the Constitution of the State of Maine.
  5. ^ The Constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is currently the world's oldest written constitution that is still in effect.
  6. ^ The first Constitution of the State of New Hampshire, adopted on January 5, 1776, was the first written constitution for an independent state in the New World and set the stage for the United States Declaration of Independence the following summer.
  7. ^ Excludes the 1938 recodification of the Constitution of the State of New York.
  8. ^ Excludes the 1968 recodification of the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
  9. ^ Excludes the constitution of the Republic of Texas.
  10. ^ Excludes the two constitutions of the Vermont Republic.
  11. ^ [1][dead link]
  12. ^ [2][dead link]
  13. ^ Proclamation 4534--Constitution of the Northern Mariana Islands

Bibliography[edit]

External links[edit]