In the United States, each state has its own constitution.
In the United States, a state is a constituent political entity, of which there are currently 50. Bound together in a political union, each state holds governmental jurisdiction over a separate and defined geographic territory and shares its sovereignty with the federal government. Due to this shared sovereignty, Americans are citizens both of the federal republic and of the state in which they reside. State citizenship and residency are flexible, and no government approval is required to move between states, except for persons restricted by certain types of court orders. Four states use the term commonwealth rather than state in their full official names.
Usually, they are much longer than the United States Constitution, which only contains 4,543 words. State constitutions are usually longer than 8,500 words because they 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, about 345,000 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 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 the Vermont Republic which was ratified at Windsor in the Old Constitution House and amended in 1786. At 8,295 words, it is the shortest U.S. state constitution.
Alabama is a state 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 is the 30th largest by area and the 24th-most populous of the U.S. states. With a total of 1,500 miles (2,400 km) of inland waterways, Alabama has among the most of any state.
The Federal Government of the United States is the national government of the United States, a federal republic in North America, composed of 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and several island possessions. The federal government is composed of three distinct branches: legislative, executive, and judicial, whose powers are vested by the U.S. Constitution in the Congress, the President, and the federal courts, respectively. The powers and duties of these branches are further defined by acts of congress, including the creation of executive departments and courts inferior to the Supreme Court.
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.
The Tenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which is part of the Bill of Rights, was ratified on December 15, 1791. It expresses the principle of federalism and states' rights, which strictly supports the entire plan of the original Constitution for the United States of America, by stating that the federal government possesses only those powers delegated to it by the United States Constitution. All remaining powers are reserved for the states or the people.
The United States Bill of Rights comprises the first ten amendments to the United States Constitution. Proposed following the often bitter 1787–88 debate over ratification of Constitution, and written to address the objections raised by Anti-Federalists, the Bill of Rights amendments add to the Constitution specific guarantees of personal freedoms and rights, clear limitations on the government's power in judicial and other proceedings, and explicit declarations that all powers not specifically granted to the U.S. Congress by the Constitution are reserved for the states or the people. The concepts codified in these amendments are built upon those found in earlier documents, especially the Virginia Declaration of Rights (1776), as well as the English Bill of Rights (1689) and the Magna Carta (1215).
Article Four of the United States Constitution outlines the relationship between the various states, as well as the relationship between each state and the United States federal government. It also empowers Congress to admit new states and administer the territories and other federal lands.
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). They also provide general governmental framework for what each branch is supposed to do and how it should go about doing it. Additionally, many other provisions may be included. Many state constitutions, unlike the federal constitution, also begin with an invocation of God.
State governments of the United States are institutional units in the United States exercising some of the functions of government at a level below that of the federal government. Each state's government holds legislative, executive, and judicial authority over a defined geographic territory. The United States comprises 50 states: 13 that were already part of the United States at the time the present Constitution took effect in 1789, plus 37 that have been admitted since by Congress as authorized under Article IV, Section 3 of the Constitution.
A bill of rights, sometimes called a declaration of rights or a charter of rights, is a list of the most important rights to the citizens of a country. The purpose is to protect those rights against infringement from public officials and private citizens.
The executive is the organ exercising authority in and holding responsibility for the governance of a state. The executive executes and enforces law.
Some states allow amendments to the constitution by initiative.
A constitutional amendment is a modification of the constitution of a polity, organization or other type of entity. Amendments are often interwoven into the relevant sections of an existing constitution, directly altering the text. Conversely, they can be appended to the constitution as supplemental additions (codicils), thus changing the frame of government without altering the existing text of the document.
In the politics of the United States, the process of initiatives and referendums allow citizens of many U.S. states to place new legislation on a popular ballot, or to place legislation that has recently been passed by a legislature on a ballot for a popular vote. Initiatives and referendums, along with recall elections and popular primary elections, are signature reforms of the Progressive Era; they are written into several state constitutions, particularly in the West.
Many states have had several constitutions over the course of their history.[ citation needed ]
The territories of the United States are "organized" and, thus, self-governing if the United States Congress has passed an Organic Act. Only two of the 14 territories – Guam and the United States Virgin Islands – are organized. One unorganized territory, American Samoa, has its own constitution. The remaining 13 unorganized territories have no permanent populations and are either under direct control of the U.S. Government or operate as military bases.
The commonwealths of Puerto Rico and the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) do not have organic acts but operate under local constitutions. Pursuant to the acquisition of Puerto Rico under the Treaty of Paris, 1898, the relationship between Puerto Rico and the United States is controlled by Article IV of the United States Constitution. Constitutional law in the CNMI is based upon a series of constitutional documents, the most important of which are the 1976 Covenant to Establish a Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands in political union with the United States of America, which controls the relationship between the CNMI and the United States; and the local commonwealth constitution, drafted in 1976, ratified by the people of the CNMI in March 1977, accepted by the United States Government in October 1977, and effective from 9 January 1978.
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.
|No.||Official name||Date of effect||Notes|
|1st||Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union||March 1, 1781|
|2nd||Constitution of the United States of America||March 4, 1789|
Note that constitutions of states that were independent countries prior to admission, and constitutions used by rebelling states participating in the American Civil War are not counted.
|No.||Official name||Date of effect||Notes|
|6th||Constitution of the State of Alabama||November 28, 1901|
|1st||Constitution of the State of Alaska||January 3, 1959|
|1st||Constitution of the State of Arizona||February 14, 1912|
|4th||Constitution of the State of Arkansas||October 13, 1874|
|2nd||Constitution of the State of California||January 1, 1880|
|1st||Constitution of the State of Colorado||August 1, 1876|
|2nd||Constitution of the State of Connecticut||December 30, 1965|
|4th||Constitution of the State of Delaware||June 10, 1897|
|5th||Constitution of the State of Florida||January 7, 1969|
|9th||Constitution of the State of Georgia||July 1, 1983|
|1st||Constitution of the State of Hawaiʻi||August 21, 1959|
|1st||Constitution of the State of Idaho||July 3, 1890|
|4th||Constitution of the State of Illinois||July 1, 1971|
|2nd||Constitution of the State of Indiana||November 1, 1851|
|2nd||Constitution of the State of Iowa||August 3, 1857|
|1st||Constitution of the State of Kansas||January 29, 1861|
|4th||Constitution of the Commonwealth of Kentucky||August 3, 1891|
|9th||Constitution of the State of Louisiana||January 1, 1975|
|1st||Constitution of the State of Maine||March 3, 1820|
|4th||Constitution of the State of Maryland||October 5, 1867|
|1st||Constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts||October 25, 1780|
|4th||Constitution of the State of Michigan||January 1, 1964|
|1st||Constitution of the State of Minnesota||May 11, 1858|
|4th||Constitution of the State of Mississippi||November 1, 1890|
|4th||Constitution of the State of Missouri||March 30, 1945|
|2nd||Constitution of the State of Montana||July 1, 1973|
|2nd||Constitution of the State of Nebraska||November 1, 1875|
|1st||Constitution of the State of Nevada||October 31, 1864|
|3rd||Constitution of the State of New Hampshire||June 2, 1784|
|3rd||Constitution of the State of New Jersey||January 1, 1948|
|1st||Constitution of the State of New Mexico||January 6, 1912|
|4th||Constitution of the State of New York||January 1, 1895|
|4th||Constitution of the State of North Carolina||July 1, 1971|
|1st||Constitution of the State of North Dakota||November 2, 1889|
|2nd||Constitution of the State of Ohio||September 1, 1851|
|1st||Constitution of the State of Oklahoma||November 16, 1907|
|1st||Constitution of the State of Oregon||February 14, 1859|
|4th||Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania||January 1, 1874|
|2nd||Constitution of the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations||May 2, 1843|
|6th||Constitution of the State of South Carolina||January 1, 1896|
|1st||Constitution of the State of South Dakota||November 2, 1889|
|3rd||Constitution of the State of Tennessee||March 26, 1870|
|4th||Constitution of the State of Texas||February 17, 1876|
|1st||Constitution of the State of Utah||January 4, 1896|
|1st||Constitution of the State of Vermont||July 9, 1793|
|7th||Constitution of the Commonwealth of Virginia||July 1, 1971|
|1st||Constitution of the State of Washington||November 11, 1889|
|2nd||Constitution of the State of West Virginia||August 22, 1872|
|1st||Constitution of the State of Wisconsin||May 29, 1848|
|1st||Constitution of the State of Wyoming||July 10, 1890|
|No.||Official name||Date of effect||Notes|
|1st||Charter of the District of Columbia||December 24, 1973|
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 1982and 1987, both referring to the district as the "State of New Columbia".
The Northern Mariana Islands, officially the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, is an insular area and commonwealth of the United States consisting of 14 islands in the northwestern Pacific Ocean. The CNMI includes the 14 northernmost islands in the Mariana Archipelago except the southernmost island of the chain, Guam, which is a separate U.S. territory. The CNMI and Guam are the westernmost point and territory of the United States.
The politics of Puerto Rico take place in the framework of a democratic republic form of government that is under the jurisdiction and sovereignty of the United States as an organized unincorporated territory.
The Eleventh Amendment to the United States Constitution was passed by Congress on March 4, 1794, and ratified by the states on February 7, 1795. The Eleventh Amendment restricts the ability of individuals to bring suit against states in federal court.
A dependent territory, dependent area or dependency is a territory that does not possess full political independence or sovereignty as a sovereign state yet remains politically outside the controlling state's integral area.
United States territory is any extent of region under the sovereign jurisdiction of the federal government of the United States, including all waters and all U.S. naval vessels. The United States asserts sovereign rights for exploring, exploiting, conserving, and managing its territory. This extent of territory is all the area belonging to, and under the dominion of, the United States federal government for administrative and other purposes. The United States total territory includes a subset of political divisions.
The Constitution of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico is the controlling government document of Puerto Rico. It is composed of nine articles detailing the structure of the government as well as the function of several of its institutions. The document also contains an extensive and specific bill of rights. Since Puerto Rico is a commonwealth of the United States, the Puerto Rico Constitution is bound to adhere to the postulates of the U.S. Constitution due to the Supremacy Clause, and of relevant Federal legislation due to the Territorial Clause.
"51st state", in post-1959 American political discourse, is a phrase that refers to areas or locales that are – seriously or facetiously – considered candidates for U.S. statehood, joining the 50 states that presently compose the United States. The phrase has been applied to external territories as well as parts of existing states which would be admitted as separate states in their own right.
An insular area of the United States is a U.S. territory that is neither a part of one of the 50 states nor of a Federal district. Article IV, Section 3, Clause 2 of the United States Constitution grants to United States Congress the responsibility of overseeing these territories, of which there are currently 14—three in the Caribbean Sea and 11 in the Pacific Ocean. These territories are classified by whether they are incorporated and whether they have an organized territorial government established by the U.S. Congress through an Organic Act. All territories but one are unincorporated, and all but four are considered to be unorganized. Five U.S. territories have a permanent, nonmilitary population. Each of them has a civilian government, a constitution, and enjoys some degree of local political autonomy.
Territories of the United States are sub-national administrative divisions overseen by the federal government. They differ from U.S. states and Native American tribes, which have limited sovereignty. The territories are classified by incorporation and whether they have an "organized" government through an organic act passed by Congress.
In the terminology of the United States insular areas, a Commonwealth is a type of organized but unincorporated dependent territory. There are currently two United States insular areas with the status of commonwealth, the Northern Mariana Islands and Puerto Rico.
Non-voting members of the United States House of Representatives are representatives of their territory in the House of Representatives, who do not have a right to vote on proposed legislation in the full House but nevertheless have floor privileges and are able to participate in certain other House functions. Non-voting members may vote in a House committee of which they are a member and introduce legislation. There are currently six non-voting members: a delegate representing the federal district of Washington D.C., a resident commissioner representing Puerto Rico, and one delegate for each of the other four permanently inhabited US Territories: American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, and the US Virgin Islands. As with voting members, non-voting delegates are elected every two years, and the Resident Commissioner of Puerto Rico is elected every four years.
The United States territorial courts are tribunals established in territories of the United States by the United States Congress, pursuant to its power under Article Four of the United States Constitution, the Territorial Clause. Most United States territorial courts are defunct because the territories under their jurisdiction have become states or been retroceded.
The Northern Mariana Islands Commonwealth Legislature is the territorial legislature of the U.S. commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. The legislative branch of the territory is bicameral, consisting of a 20-member lower House of Representatives, and an upper house Senate with nine Senators. Representatives serve two-year terms and Senators serve four-year terms, both without term limits. The territorial legislature meets in the commonwealth capital of Saipan.
Under United States law, an unincorporated territory is an area controlled by the United States government that is not part of the United States. In unincorporated territories, the U.S. Constitution applies only partially. In the absence of an organic law, a territory is classified as unorganized. In unincorporated territories, "fundamental rights apply as a matter of law, but other constitutional rights are not available". Selected constitutional provisions apply, depending on congressional acts and judicial rulings according to U.S. constitutional practice, local tradition, and law.
The District of Columbia and United States Territories Quarter Program was a one-year coin program of the United States Mint that saw quarters being minted in 2009 to honor the District of Columbia and the unincorporated United States insular areas of Puerto Rico, Guam, United States Virgin Islands, American Samoa, and the Northern Mariana Islands. The islands commonly grouped together as the United States Minor Outlying Islands were not featured, as the law defined the word "territory" as being limited to the areas mentioned above. It followed the completion of the 50 State Quarters program. The coins used the same George Washington obverse as with the quarters of the previous ten years. The reverse of the quarters featured a design selected by the Mint depicting of the federal district and each territory. Unlike on the 50 State quarters, the motto "E Pluribus Unum" preceded and was the same size as the mint date on the reverse.
The political status of Puerto Rico is that of an unincorporated territory of the United States. As such, the island is neither a sovereign nation nor a U.S. state. Because of that ambiguity, the territory, as a polity, lacks certain rights but enjoys certain benefits that other polities have or lack. For instance, in contrast to sovereign nations, Puerto Rico does not have voting rights in its federal legislature nor in electing its federal head of government. But, in contrast to U.S. states, residents of Puerto Rico are not subject to federal income taxes. The political status of the island thus stems from how different Puerto Rico is politically from sovereign nations and from U.S. states.
Voting rights of citizens in Guam differ from those of United States citizens in each of the fifty states. In the U.S. House of Representatives, Guam is entitled to a delegate, who is not allowed to vote on the floor of the House, but can vote on procedural matters and in House committees. Citizens of Guam may not vote in general elections for President.