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Article 5

Article 5

What It Means to Ratification

What It Means to Ratification

The core “check” applied to the Constitutional Amendment
process provided by Article Five is the process of ratification.  The key
element of ratification is that it gives the states direct influence over the
implementation of a Constitutional change or
Amendment. 
In every form of federal law, states have, at best an indirect means of
influencing policy. 

Federal statutes are decided by Congress, whose members are
elected on the
State level, but while in office, operate
without direct oversight o
ver the State
governments.  Federal administrative laws are proposed by agencies
empowered by Congress, giving states even less influence over that process. Due
to the overall importance of Constitutional
Amendments,
which are the laws by which all other laws in the country must answer to, the
states are allowed to play the vital role in the ratification of these
laws. 

What ratification specifically is the means by
which a proposed
Amendment is legislated into being.  It
is similar to the President signing a bill into law or vetoing it, save that
the Congress lacks the power to override a
State
rejection of an Amendment.  Ratification works as such: when an
Amendment
(changes to the Constitution do not always have to take the form of an
Amendment,
which is a codicil to the document itself, but they have always taken this
form) is proposed by either a two-thirds vote of both the Senate and the House
of Representatives or a specially convened Constitutional Convention (which has
never actually happened under Article Five), then it goes to the states for
approval. 

For an Amendment to be approved, or ratified, it must
pass by a three
-fourths vote in all individual State
legislatures.  By current standards, that means all but twelve states have
to approve the
Amendment. 

If it passes in the legislatures of three-fourths of all
states, then it is ratified.  If it does not, the proposal remains active
for a seven
year
period, during which legislatures are allowed to vote and re-vote for
ratification if they so choose.  After this seven
year
period, the
Amendment
is officially supposed to “die.” There have been instances where
Congress has tried to extend the period for a bill, but the legitimacy of this
practice has been questioned, and has still yet to face
 judicial
review
.  

What You Need to Know About Proposed and Unratified Amendments

What You Need to Know About Proposed and Unratified Amendments

To date six Amendments have been proposed for ratification
but did not achieve the votes in the
State
legislatures necessary for ratification.  Of these six, four are still
active.

Article One of the original Bill of Rights, more
commonly known as
the First Article, was designed to control the size of
electoral districts by setting specific mandates about how many representatives
a
State would
receive based upon the population of that
State. It
was proposed by the first Congress in 1789 and eleven states ratified it by
1792, which was just short of the number needed.  Even if it had been
ratified, nearly all Constitutional historians feel it would have been either
amended or repealed eventually, as it
s
mathematical means of calculating and capping population to representative
ratios would have been unrealistic as the country’s population expanded and
exploded. 

Under the specifications of the Article, if the amount of
representatives were held at the original ratio (one representative to every
50,000 persons), then based on the 2000
Census
there would be 5,628 representatives.  The Amendment is still active,
technically, but its chances of passing are nonexistent. 

The Titles of Nobility Amendment proposed that any
citizen who accepted a title of nobility from a government that is overseen by
a monarch would automatically disavow their American citizenship and be
forbidden from ever holding a
Government office.  It was proposed in
1810, during a period where the United States was still antagonistic toward
Great Britain (which led to the War of 18
12) as well
as Emperor Napoleon’s regime in France, and therefore
, there was
a virulent strain of anti-nobility in the country. 

Despite this, only 12 states ratified the document before
1812, and none have since.  While the proposal remains active, it would
require another 26 states to ratify it.  Since the political significance
of royalty the world over has essentially declined and many Americans hold
titles from foreign governments while still being proud and productive
Americans, it
likely will never be ratified, nor
does it need to be.

The Corwin Amendment was a controversial Amendment
in its time, which would have, in essence, forbidden Congress from interfering
or abolishing
State policies, which was mainly a way of
preventing the Congress from abolishing slavery in states where it was already
practiced.  At the time, it was seen as a means of staving off the Civil
War, but it was ineffectual as the Confederate States of America was already
committed to declaring independence by that point.  It was only ratified
by two states, and by another
State’s Constitutional
Convention,
and while it is technically still active, the passage of the
 Thirteenth Amendment would negate its validity based on the
doctrine of stare decisis. (See Coleman v. Miller, which determined that Amendments
proposed without a time limit will remain active indefinitely. As a result,
subsequent proposed Amendments have often had a time limit imposed upon them.)

The Equal Rights Amendment would have essentially
forbidden discrimination or limitation of an individual’s rights based on
sex.  While it passed in both Houses of Congress, it was only ratified
before its deadline in 1979 by 35 states.  When it failed to pass, Congress,
in a move considered very controversial, extended its deadline by another three
years in a move that was due to face judicial review, but was not able to make
it before the new 1982 deadline. 

Since no new ratifications
happened during the period, with five states in fact rescinding their approval
for the ERA, the deadline was allowed to expire. A new Equal Rights Amendment
was proposed in the House of Representatives in 2009 and is still pending
proposal status.

The District of Columbia Voting Rights Amendment
was proposed in 1978 and would have granted the District full rights of
representation in Congress and full participation in the Electoral College (as
well as a role in deciding Constitutional Amendments), but it was only ratified
by 16 states before it expired in 1985. 

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