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A supermajority, supra-majority, qualified majority or special majority, is a requirement for a proposal to gain a specified level of support which is greater than the threshold of more than one-half used for a majority. A supermajority in a democracy can help to prevent a majority from eroding fundamental rights of a minority. Changes to constitutions, especially those with entrenched clauses, commonly require supermajority support in a legislature. Parliamentary procedure requires that any action of a deliberative assembly that may alter the rights of a minority have a supermajority requirement, such as a two-thirds vote.
Related concepts regarding alternatives to the majority vote requirement include a majority of the entire membership and a majority of the fixed membership. A supermajority can also be specified based on the entire membership or fixed membership rather than on those present and voting.
The first known use of a supermajority rule was in the 100s BCE in ancient Rome. [ how? ]
Pope Alexander III introduced the use of supermajority rule for papal elections at the Third Lateran Council in 1179.
In the Democratic Party of the United States, a rule requiring the determination of a presidential nominee required the votes of two-thirds of delegates to the Democratic National Convention was adopted at the party's first presidential nominating convention in 1832.The two-thirds rule gave southern Democrats a de facto veto over any presidential nominee after the Civil War, which lasted until the rule was abolished in 1936.
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A majority vote, or more than half the votes cast, is a common voting basis. Instead of the basis of a majority, a supermajority can be specified using any fraction or percentage which is greater than one-half.It can also be called a qualified majority. Common supermajorities include three-fifths (60%), two-thirds (66.67...%), and three-quarters (75%).
A two-thirds vote, when unqualified, means two-thirds or more of the votes cast.This voting basis is equivalent to the number of votes in favor being at least twice the number of votes against. Abstentions and absences are excluded in calculating a two-thirds vote.
The two-thirds requirement can be qualified to include the entire membership of a body instead of only those present and voting, but such a requirement must be explicitly stated (such as "two-thirds of those members duly elected and sworn").In this case, abstentions and absences count as votes against the proposal. Alternatively, the voting requirement could be specified as "two-thirds of those present", which has the effect of counting abstentions but not absences as votes against the proposal.
For example, if an organization has 150 members and at a meeting 30 members are present with 25 votes cast, a "two-thirds vote" would be 17. ("Two-thirds of those present" would be 20, and "two-thirds of the entire membership" would be 100.)
Another type of supermajority is three-fifths (60 percent). This requirement could also be qualified to include the entire membership or to include those present.
In 2006, the Constitution of Florida was amended to require a 60% majority to pass new constitutional amendments by popular vote.
For the Montenegrin independence referendum held in 2006 the European Union envoy Miroslav Lajčák proposed independence if a 55% supermajority of votes are cast in favor with a minimum turnout of 50%. Such procedure, ultimately accepted by the government of Montenegro, was somewhat criticized as overriding the traditional practice of requiring a two-thirds supermajority, as practiced in all ex Yugoslav countries before (including the previous referendum in Montenegro).
In 2016, the Constitution of Colorado was amended to require a 55% majority to pass new constitutional amendments by popular vote. It had previously been a simple majority.
Related concepts regarding alternatives to the majority vote requirement include a "majority of the entire membership" and a "majority of the fixed membership".
A majority of the entire membership is a voting basis that requires that more than half of all the members of a body (including those absent and those present but not voting) vote in favor of a proposition in order for it to be passed.In practical terms, it means an absence or an abstention from voting is equivalent to a "no" vote. It may be contrasted with a majority vote which only requires more than half of those actually voting to approve a proposition for it to be enacted. An absolute majority may also be the same as a majority of the entire membership, although this usage is not consistent.
In addition, a supermajority could be specified in this voting basis, such as a vote of "two-thirds of the entire membership".
By way of illustration, in February 2007 the Italian Government fell after it lost a vote in the Italian Senate by 158 votes to 136 (with 24 abstentions). The government needed an absolute majority in the 318 member house but fell two votes short of the required 160 when two of its own supporters abstained.In the United States Electoral College, an absolute majority of electoral votes are required for it to elect the US president and vice-president.
A majority of the fixed membership is based on the total number of the established fixed membership of the deliberative assembly.It is used only when a specific number of seats or memberships is established in the rules governing the organization. A majority of the fixed membership would be different from a majority of the entire membership if there are vacancies.
For example, say a board has 12 seats. If the board has the maximum number of members, or 12 members, a majority of the entire membership and a majority of the fixed membership would be seven members. However, if there are two vacancies (so that there are only ten members on the board), then a majority of the entire membership would be six members (more than half of ten), but a majority of the fixed membership would still be seven members.
It is possible for organizations that use a majority of the fixed membership to be caught in a stalemate if at least half the membership consists of vacancies, making it impossible to perform any actions until those vacancies are filled.The requirement for a minimum number of members to be present in order to conduct business, called a quorum, may be used to avoid such a possibility.
Similar to the voting basis for the entire membership, a supermajority could be specified for this basis, such as a vote of "two-thirds of the fixed membership".
The examples and perspective in this section deal primarily with the United States and do not represent a worldwide view of the subject. (January 2021) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
Parliamentary procedure requires that any action that may alter the rights of a minority have a supermajority requirement. Robert's Rules of Order states:
As a compromise between the rights of the individual and the rights of the assembly, the principle has been established that a two-thirds vote is required to adopt any motion that: (a) suspends or modifies a rule of order previously adopted; (b) prevents the introduction of a question for consideration; (c) closes, limits, or extends the limits of debate; (d) closes nominations or the polls, or otherwise limits the freedom of nominating or voting; or (e) takes away membership.
This book also states:
The vote of a majority of the entire membership is frequently an alternative to a requirement of previous notice, and is required in order to rescind and expunge from the minutes (see p. 310). Otherwise, prescribing such a requirement is generally unsatisfactory in an assembly of an ordinary society, since it is likely to be impossible to get a majority of the entire membership even to attend a given meeting, although in certain instances it may be appropriate in conventions or in permanent boards where the members are obligated to attend the meetings.
In Canada, most constitutional amendments can be passed only if identical resolutions are adopted by the House of Commons, the Senate and two-thirds or more of the provincial legislative assemblies representing at least 50 percent of the national population.
Article 20 of the Constitution of Denmark states that if the government or parliament wants to cede parts of national sovereignty to an international body such as the European Union or the United Nations, it has to get a five-sixths majority in the Folketing (150 out of 179 seats).If there is only a simple majority, a referendum must be held on the subject.
According to Finnish Law, when a new legislative proposal would in some way add, alter or remove a part of the Finnish constitution, a bill requires a 2/3 majority in the Parliament of Finland. In other words, a legislative proposal that would modify, add or remove a part of the Finnish Constitution requires at least the approval of 134 out of 200 representatives in the Parliament of Finland
The Council of the European Union uses 'Qualified majority voting' for the majority of issues brought before the institution. However, for matters of extreme importance for individual member states, unanimous voting is implemented.An example of this is Article 7 of the Treaty on European Union, whereby a member state can have its rights suspended with the unanimous approval of all other member states.
After the accession of Croatia, on 1 July 2013, at least 260 votes out of a total of 352 by at least 15 member states were required for legislation to be adopted by qualified majority. From 1 July 2013, the pass condition translated into:
Requirements to reach an absolute majority is a common feature of voting in the European Parliament (EP) where under the ordinary legislative procedure the EP is required to act by an absolute majority if it is to either amend or reject proposed legislation.
Article 368 of the Indian Constitution requires a supermajority of two-thirds of members present and voting in each house of Indian Parliament, subject to at least by a majority of the total membership of each House of Parliament, to amend the constitution. In addition, in matters affecting the states and judiciary, at least above half of all the states need to ratify the amendment.
The Rome Statute requires a seven-eighths majority of participating states to be amended.
The President of Italy is elected by an electoral college consisting of both chambers of Parliament sitting in joint session with 58 electors from the country's 20 regions. In the first three rounds of voting, a candidate must get two-thirds of the votes to win, but from the fourth round onwards only a simple majority is needed. Even reforms to the Constitution need to achieve a supermajority of two-thirds of the votes both in the Chamber and in the Senate to avoid the possibility of being sent to popular vote in order to be confirmed through a referendum.
Amendments to the constitution require a two-thirds majority in both houses of the National Diet and a simple majority in a referendum.
Under the Constitution of Nigeria a two-thirds majority is required in the National Assembly to alter the Constitution, enact legislation in a few areas, or remove office holders from some positions, such a Speaker. Legislative override or impeachment of the executive at either the state or federal government level also requires a two-thirds majority of the corresponding legislative assembly.
Under the 1987 Constitution of the Philippines, a two-thirds majority of both houses of the Congress of the Philippines (the House and the Senate) meeting in joint session is required to declare war.A two-thirds majority of both Houses is required to override a presidential veto. A two-thirds vote of both chambers of Congress voting separately is required to designate the vice president as acting president in the event that a majority of the Cabinet certifies that the president is "unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office" but the president declares that no such inability exists. A two-thirds vote of either chamber is required to suspend or expel a member from that chamber.
Under the 1987 Constitution, "The Congress may, by a vote of two-thirds of all its Members, call a constitutional convention, or by a majority vote of all its Members, submit to the electorate the question of calling such a convention."A three-fourths vote of all the members of the Congress is required to propose an amendment to the Constitution; the proposed amendment is submitted to the people for ratification (by a majority of the votes cast) in a plebiscite.
A two-thirds majority of the Senate is required to ratify treaties, and to remove an impeached official from office.Impeachment by the House, which is the required first step in the removal process, only requires one-third of Representatives to sign a petition (specifically a verified complaint or resolution of impeachment).
Different amendment procedures apply to different parts of the Constitution. Most of the Articles of the Constitution may be amended by a bill enacted by Parliament if there is at least a supermajority of two-thirds of all elected MPs voting in favour of the bill during its Second and Third Readings in Parliament.Since ordinary bills only need to be approved by at least a simple majority of all the MPs present and voting, the supermajority requirement is more rigorous and gives the Constitution its rigid characteristic. However, the present ruling party, the People's Action Party ("PAP") has commanded a majority of more than two-thirds of the seats in Parliament since 1968. In addition, due to the presence of the party whip, all PAP MPs must vote in accordance with the party line save where the whip is lifted, usually for matters of conscience. Thus, in substance the more stringent amendment requirement has not imposed any real limitation on Parliament's ability to amend the Constitution.
A three-fifths majority of legislators is required for a bill to be put to a vote in the National Assembly to prevent the ruling party from passing laws without the support of opposition parties.
The 1978 Constitution states that a three-fifths majority in both Congress of Deputies and Senate of Spain is needed to pass a constitutional reform, but if a two-thirds majority is reached in the Congress of Deputies, an absolute majority of senators is enough to pass the proposal.
Nevertheless, when a new Constitution is proposed or the proposal's goal is to reform the Preliminary Title, the Chapter on Fundamental Rights and Freedoms or the Title on the Crown, the supermajority becomes significantly harder:
The first way has been used twice (1992 and 2011), but the second has never been used.
The Spanish Constitution states other supermajorities:
Each Spanish autonomous community has its own Statute of Autonomy, working like a local constitution that is subject to the 1978 Constitution and national powers.
The Statute of Autonomy of the Canary Islands states that its economic and fiscal regime and electoral law need a two-thirds majority of the Parliament to be modified.On its behalf, the Ombudsman needs a three-fifths majority to be appointed. Also, if a two-thirds majority votes against a law project, it must be proposed to the following session.
Before the Additional Articles of the Constitution of the Republic of China in 2005, the constitution amendments need to be passed by the National Assembly. Since the Additional Articles ratified on June 7, 2005, the National Assembly was abolished. Amendments of the constitution need to be proposed by more than one-quarter of members of the Legislative Yuan, passed by three-quarters of those present in the meeting, the presence of which must surpass three-quarters of all members of Legislative Yuan, then followed by approval by more than half (50%) of all eligible voters in referendums.
The United Kingdom House of Commons can be dissolved and an election held before the expiry of its 5-year term by a vote of two-thirds of the membership of the House of Commons since 2011 under the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011. This is the only supermajority required in the British Constitution. However, Parliament can also be dissolved if the House of Commons passes a motion of no-confidence in the government and no new government wins a motion of confidence within two weeks of the original vote of no-confidence.
A government with a majority that wanted to bypass the requirement for a two-thirds vote could pass an act that stated, "Notwithstanding the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011, a general election will be called on DATE", as was done for the election in 2019. It could also repeal the act with a simple majority as well.
The United Nations Security Council requires a supermajority of the fixed membership on substantive matters (procedural matters require a simple majority of those present and voting). According to Article 27 of the United Nations Charter, at least nine of the Security Council's 15 members (i.e., a three-fifths supermajority) must vote in favor of a draft resolution in order to achieve passage. Specifying the fixed membership has the effect of making abstentions count as votes against—absences are not normal but would be treated the same way.
This is useful for the five permanent members of the council (the United States, the Russian Federation, China, the United Kingdom, and France) because a vote against from any one of them constitutes a veto, which cannot be overridden. Permanent members who do not support a measure, but are unwilling to be seen to block it against the wishes of the majority of the council, tend to abstain; abstentions by veto powers are generally seen by close observers of the UN[ according to whom? ] as the equivalent of not vetoing votes against and have the same impact on the decision of the Security Council.
The Constitution of the United States requires supermajorities in order for certain significant actions to occur.
Amendments to the Constitution may be proposed in one of two ways: a two-thirds supermajority votes of each house of United States Congress or a convention called by Congress on application of two-thirds (currently 34) of the states. Once proposed, the amendment must be ratified by three-quarters (currently 38) of the states (either through the state legislatures, or ratification conventions, whichever "mode of ratification" Congress selects).
Congress may pass bills by simple majority votes. If the president vetoes a bill, Congress may override the veto by a two-thirds supermajority of both houses.
A treaty must be ratified by a two-thirds supermajority of the Senate to enter into force and effect.
Section 4 of the Twenty-fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution gives Congress a role to play in the event of a presidential disability. If the vice president and a majority of the president's cabinet declare that the president is unable to serve in that role, the vice president becomes acting president. Within 21 days of such a declaration (or, if Congress is in recess when a president is disabled, 21 days after Congress reconvenes), Congress must vote by two-thirds supermajorities to continue the disability declaration; otherwise, such declaration expires after the 21 days and the president would at that time "resume" discharging all the powers and duties of the office. (Section 4 has been invoked –the president himself declaring an inability –only three times.)
The House may, by a simple majority vote, impeach a federal official (such as, but not limited to, the president, vice president, or a federal judge). Removal from office (and optional disqualification from any Federal, State or local office) requires a two-thirds supermajority of the Senate. In 1842, the House failed to impeach president John Tyler. In 1868, the Senate fell one vote short of removing president Andrew Johnson following his impeachment. In 1999, efforts to remove Bill Clinton following his impeachment in 1998 fell just short of a simple majority, and 17 votes short of the two-thirds supermajority. The impeachment procedure was last used in 2019–20, when president Donald Trump was impeached and subsequently acquitted. Each chamber may expel one of its own members by a two-thirds supermajority vote; this last happened when the House expelled James Traficant in 2002.
The 14th Amendment (section 3) bars a person from Federal or State office if, after having previously taken an oath to support the Constitution as a Federal or State officer, "shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof". However, both the House and Senate may jointly override this restriction with a two-thirds supermajority vote each.
A two-thirds supermajority in the Senate is 67 out of 100 senators, while a two-thirds supermajority in the House is 290 out of 435 representatives. However, since many votes take place without every seat in the House filled and representative participating, it does not often require 67 senators or 290 representatives to achieve this supermajority.
Apart from these constitutional requirements, a Senate rule (except in cases covered by the nuclear option, or of a rule change) requires an absolute supermajority of three-fifths to move to a vote through a cloture motion, which closes debate on a bill or nomination, thus ending a filibuster by a minority of members. In current practice, the mere threat of a filibuster prevents passing almost any measure that has less than three-fifths agreement in the Senate, 60 of the 100 senators if every seat is filled.
For state legislatures in the United States, Mason's Manual says, "A deliberative body cannot by its own act or rule require a two-thirds vote to take any action where the constitution or controlling authority requires only a majority vote. To require a two-thirds vote, for example, to take any action would be to give to any number more than one-third of the members the power to defeat the action and amount to a delegation of the powers of the body to a minority."Some states require a supermajority for passage of a constitutional amendment or statutory initiative.
Many state constitutions allow or require amendments to their own constitutions to be proposed by supermajorities of the state legislature; these amendments must usually be approved by the voters at one or more subsequent elections. Michigan, for instance, allows the Legislature to propose an amendment to the Michigan Constitution; it must then be ratified by the voters at the next general election (unless a special election is called).
In most states, the state legislature may override a governor's veto of legislation. In most states, a two-thirds supermajority of both chambers is required.However, in some states (e.g., Illinois, Maryland and North Carolina), only a three-fifths supermajority is required, while in Kentucky and West Virginia only a normal majority is needed.
One common provision of so-called "taxpayer bill of rights" laws (either in state statutes or state constitutions) is requirement of a supermajority vote in the state legislature to increase taxes. The National Conference of State Legislatures reported in 2010 that fifteen states required a supermajority vote (either a three-fifths, two-thirds or three-fourths majority vote in both chambers) to pass some or all tax increases.
Supermajority requirements for tax increases have been criticized as "deeply flawed" by a report by the progressive Center on Budget and Policy Priorities because such requirements empower a minority of legislators, making it difficult to close tax loopholes or fund transportation infrastructure, and also may encourage pork-barrel spending as a trade-off to ensure passage of a tax increase (see logrolling).
Impeachment is the process by which a legislative body addresses legal charges against a government official. National legislations differ regarding the definition and consequences of an impeachment. In many countries, for example those in Latin America, "impeachment" refers to a definitive destitution; an official in these jurisdictions is therefore only considered "impeached" when they have been removed from office. Conversely, in other jurisdictions such as the United States, "impeachment" refers to a previous step, that of the authority's indictment; a U.S. president impeached by the House of Representatives remains in power while charges are addressed by the Senate, and may be found not guilty.
Article One of the United States Constitution establishes the legislative branch of the federal government, the United States Congress. Under Article One, Congress is a bicameral legislature consisting of the House of Representatives and the Senate. Article One grants Congress various enumerated powers and the ability to pass laws "necessary and proper" to carry out those powers. Article One also establishes the procedures for passing a bill and places various limits on the powers of Congress and the states from abusing their powers.
A veto is the power to unilaterally stop an official action, especially the enactment of legislation. A veto can be absolute, as for instance in the United Nations Security Council, whose permanent members can block any resolution, or it can be limited, as in the legislative process of the United States, where a two-thirds vote in both the House and Senate will override a presidential veto of legislation. A veto may give power only to stop changes, like the US legislative veto, or to also adopt them, like the legislative veto of the Indian President, which allows him to propose amendments to bills returned to Parliament for reconsideration.
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.
The California State Legislature is a bicameral state legislature consisting of a lower house, the California State Assembly, with 80 members; and an upper house, the California State Senate, with 40 members. Both houses of the Legislature convene at the California State Capitol in Sacramento. The California state legislature is one of just ten full-time state legislatures in the United States.
The Florida Legislature is the legislature of the U.S. State of Florida. It is organized as a bicameral body composed of an upper chamber, the Senate, and a lower chamber, the House of Representatives. Article III, Section 1 of the Florida Constitution, adopted in 1968, defines the role of the legislature and how it is to be constituted. The legislature is composed of 160 state legislators. The primary purpose of the legislature is to enact new laws and amend or repeal existing laws. It meets in the Florida State Capitol building in Tallahassee.
Ratification is a principal's approval of an act of its agent that lacked the authority to bind the principal legally. Ratification defines the international act in which a state indicates its consent to be bound to a treaty if the parties intended to show their consent by such an act. In the case of bilateral treaties, ratification is usually accomplished by exchanging the requisite instruments, and in the case of multilateral treaties, the usual procedure is for the depositary to collect the ratifications of all states, keeping all parties informed of the situation.
An upper house is one of two chambers of a bicameral legislature, the other chamber being the lower house. The house formally designated as the upper house is usually smaller and often has more restricted power than the lower house. A legislature composed of only one house is described as unicameral.
The Florida House of Representatives is the lower house of the Florida Legislature, the state legislature of the U.S. state of Florida, the Florida Senate being the upper house. Article III, Section 1 of the Constitution of Florida, adopted in 1968, defines the role of the Legislature and how it is to be constituted. The House is composed of 120 members, each elected from a single-member district with a population of approximately 157,000 residents. Legislative districts are drawn on the basis of population figures, provided by the federal decennial census. Representatives' terms begin immediately upon their election. As of 2020, Republicans hold the majority in the State House with 78 seats; Democrats are in the minority with 42 seats.
A double majority is a voting system which requires a majority of votes according to two separate criteria. The mechanism is usually used to require strong support for any measure considered to be of great importance. Typically in legislative bodies, a double majority requirement exists in the form of a quorum being necessary for legislation to be passed.
The Constitution of the State of Tennessee defines the form, structure, activities, character, and fundamental rules of the U.S. State of Tennessee.
The Italian Parliament is the national parliament of the Italian Republic. It is the representative body of Italian citizens and is the successor to the Parliament of the Kingdom of Italy (1861–1946), the transitional National Council (1945-1946) and the Constituent Assembly (1946-1948). It is a bicameral legislature with 945 elected members and a small number of unelected members (parlamentari). The Italian Parliament is composed of the Chamber of Deputies and Senate of the Republic. The two Houses are independent from one another and never meet jointly except under circumstances specified by the Constitution. Following a referendum on 21 September 2020, the number of MPs in the Parliament will be reduced from 630 to 400 in the Chamber of Deputies and from 315 to 200 in the Senate.
The Florida Senate is the upper house of the Florida Legislature, the state legislature of the U.S. state of Florida, the Florida House of Representatives being the lower house. Article III, Section 1 of the Constitution of Florida, adopted in 1968, defines the role of the Legislature and how it is to be constituted. The Senate is composed of 40 members, each elected from a single-member district with a population of approximately 470,000 residents. Legislative districts are drawn on the basis of population figures, provided by the federal decennial census. Senators' terms begin immediately, upon their election. The Senate Chamber is located in the State Capitol building.
The government of Alabama is organized under the provisions of the 1901 Constitution of Alabama, the lengthiest constitution of any political entity in the world. Like other states within the United States, Alabama's government is divided into executive, judicial, and legislative branches.
The Alabama Legislature is the legislative branch of the state government of Alabama. It is a bicameral body composed of the House of Representatives and Senate. It is one of the few state legislatures in which members of both chambers serve four-year terms and in which all are elected in the same cycle. The most recent election was on November 6, 2018. The new legislature assumes office immediately following the certification of the election results by the Alabama Secretary of State which occurs within a few days following the election.
This is a brief description of the lawmaking procedure in India.
The Kansas Legislature is the state legislature of the U.S. state of Kansas. It is a bicameral assembly, composed of the lower Kansas House of Representatives, with 125 state representatives, and the upper Kansas Senate, with 40 state senators. Representatives are elected for two-year terms, senators for four-year terms.
The Legislature of the State of Oklahoma is the state legislative branch of the U.S. state of Oklahoma. The Oklahoma House of Representatives and Oklahoma Senate are the two houses that make up the bicameral state legislature. There are 101 state representatives, each serving a two-year term, and 48 state senators, who serve four-year terms that are staggered so only half of the Oklahoma Senate districts are eligible in each election cycle. Legislators are elected directly by the people from single member districts of equal population. The Oklahoma Legislature meets annually in the Oklahoma State Capitol in Oklahoma City.
The Kansas House of Representatives is the lower house of the legislature of the U.S. state of Kansas. Composed of 125 state representatives from districts with roughly equal populations of at least 19,000, its members are responsible for crafting and voting on legislation, helping to create a state budget, and legislative oversight over state agencies.
The United States Senate is the upper chamber of the United States Congress, which, along with the United States House of Representatives—the lower chamber—constitutes the legislature of the United States. The Senate chamber is located in the north wing of the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C.
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