The Virginia State Constitution: A Reference Guide

By John Dinan | Go to book overview
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Article XII
Future Changes

For nearly a century, the Virginia Constitution did not provide for an amendment and revision procedure, in part because the East was reluctant to make it easier for the West to bring about a population-based apportionment, and in part because such a procedure was viewed as likely to produce frequent constitutional change and governmental instability. It is not that the Constitution was unchanged during this time. In addition to several amendments adopted under unusual circumstances in the mid-1860s, conventions were called in 1829–30, 1850–51, 1861, 1864, and 1867–68. However, these conventions were each called by the legislature, and, with the exception of the unusual 1864 Convention, the convention calls were all approved by the people, independent of, and without any guidance from, a constitutional provision on the subject.

The 1870 Constitution was the first to contain an Article on Future Changes, and it included two sections, one dealing with amendments and another providing for conventions, as in the present Constitution. Each of these sections has remained in effect since that time, albeit with several important changes through the years, particularly regarding the manner of calling and approving the work of conventions.

One method of constitutional change that was included in the 1870 Constitution but has not survived in the current Constitution is a requirement that the people vote every 20 years on whether to call a convention. Periodic convention questions of this sort are an embodiment of Thomas Jefferson's belief that each generation should have the opportunity to rewrite its fundamental laws, and these procedures are currently provided for in 14 state constitutions. However, after the one occasion in 1888 when such a convention question was put to Virginia voters and rejected, the Convention of 1901–02 chose not to include this procedure in the 1902 Constitution.

Another method of constitutional change that has never been included in the Virginia Constitution but is currently found in 18 other states is the constitutional

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