Constitution Daily

Smart conversation from the National Constitution Center

By the numbers: belated and potential amendments

February 15, 2012 by Paige Scofield


Pop quiz: how many amendments are there to the U.S. Constitution? If you answered 27, you’re right. And for extra credit, do you know how many we’ve come close to having? (Answer below!)

Working at the National Constitution Center, the Constitution Daily writers all pay probably more attention to news items relating to the Constitution than most folks. So when this story came to our attention last month, we were fascinated by Maryland’s belated attention to the 17th Amendment.

It got me thinking about how many amendments experienced similar fates and also about those which never made it through the entire ratification process. Here’s the scoop on legislative action (or inaction has the case may be), by the numbers:

2 – The number of ways the Constitution can be amended, as described in Article V

11,000+ – The number of amendments that have been introduced in Congress

6 – The number of amendments that have then passed from Congress but have not gotten enough state votes for ratification

35 – The number of states that have ratified the Equal Rights Amendment, three short of the necessary 38

128 – The number of years it took for Tennessee, the last state, to ratify the 15th Amendment, eliminating race as a barrier to voting

8 – The number of states that have yet to ratify the 26th Amendment, setting the voting age at 18

1995 – The year that Mississippi ratified the 13th Amendment, the amendment abolishing slavery

202 – The number of years it took for the 27th Amendment, the last, to become ratified, originally proposed in 1789

There has even been a proposal to change the amendment process!

Each of these numbers could probably spawn blog posts of their own because of the history and backstory involved, but the most intriguing to me was the difference between the number of proposals submitted versus the number of amendments that have actually been fully ratified. I think it shows that as sentiments and opinions about laws change, there is a clear vehicle for reflecting them. Yet, at the same time, it shows that not every idea may be worth setting so definitively in the Constitution. The process of ratification ensures that any major changes have solid, serious weight and consideration behind them.

If you want even more information about proposed Amendments, here are the Top 10 that haven’t quite made it through the process.

Paige M. Scofield is a Management Consultant at Accenture and former Programs and Communications Coordinator at the National Constitution Center. She hopes to see the ERA ratified in her lifetime.

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