The Process of Constitutional Amendment and Constitutional Change
While most contemporary Americans undoubtedly take the power for granted, the inclusion of a formal amending process marked the United States Constitution as fairly unique when it was written and ratified. 1 Article V of the U.S. Constitution outlines the process of amendment, a process requiring two steps, proposal and ratification. 2 It takes a two- thirds vote of both Houses of Congress or a special constitutional convention called by Congress at the request of two-thirds of the state legislatures to propose amendments. To become part of the Constitution, three-fourths of the states must in turn ratify these proposals; Congress specifies whether the states will do this through their legislatures or through special ratifying conventions. 3 The amending process is thus a difficult one 4 which requires supermajorities and reflects the federal nature of the U.S. Constitution. 5 The only currently applicable stated limit on the amending process providing that states shall not be deprived of their equal representation in the Senate without their consent reflects this federal dimension.
Having participated in a revolution that was precipitated when the British ignored colonial petitions for reform and redress, the Founders clearly viewed the constitutional amending process as an alternative to violent change. The scholarly George Mason of Virginia accordingly argued at the Constitutional Convention that it was better to provide for constitu-