Constitutional Amendments – How are They Done?

By: Brad Rynawski | Posted: 11th March 2010

A Constitutional Amendment is any form of adjustment to the legislator system of a country. The constitution of a country is a lists of rulings that are approved by the congress of a state that are implemented to govern its people.In order for these rulings to be modified, there are certain procedures that need to be employed, which can sometimes follow irregular proceedings from what would be enacted for ordinary laws. A constitutional amendment has to be validated by a submission through either the members of congress or by the request of certain civilian bodies. However, some amendments can only be achieved with the direct approval of the electorate in a referendum.

The way in which a constitution is altered may vary from state to state. In some states the jurisdictions entail that a constitutional amendment must be agreed upon by the governing body of a country on two separate occasions during two separate but consecutive terms, and is done through a general election. The proceedings of the legislature is then suspended to allow a general election whenever an amendment is being implemented for the first time. This is done in sovereign states such as Denmark, The Netherlands, Iceland and Norway and in individual states in America like Iowa, Vermont and Wisconsin.

In countries like the United States of America three quarters of the legislature body have to agree upon a change in the constitution before it can be formally put into practice. In countries like Switzerland, Canada and Australia, different requirements apply. In Canada, after a proposition is made by the members of parliament then the approval of a provincial legislature is required. While in Switzerland and Australia, a constitutional amendment has to be passed by the leading vote of electorates as well as separate majorities in each state within the country.

Many states also combine various elements from each amendment proceedings. In cases like the French, their constitution amendment system is formulated from one or two procedures. It can either be done by a majority vote or by a referendum. In the U.S. Commonwealth of Massachusetts a constitutional amendment has to be passed by a special majority of legislature during two back to back terms which is then submitted to a referendum for a final approval.

In Austria, the Constitutional settings are much more moderate in regards to the recording of constitutional amendments. Almost any piece of parliamentary legislation can be voted in as part of the constitution if the required supermajority and other dealings for an amendment are met. An amendment may adopt to the form of a change of the centerpiece of the constitution, a change to another constitutional act, the B-VG, a new constitutional act, or a section of constitutional law in a non-constitutional act.

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