State constitution (United States)


In the United States, each state has its own written constitution.

Usually, they are much longer than the United States Constitution, which only contains 4,543 words. State constitutions are all longer than 8,000 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 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.

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.

Some states allow amendments to the constitution by initiative.

Many states have had several constitutions over the course of their history.

The territories of the United States are "organized" and, thus, self-governing if the United States Congress has passed an Organic Act. Two of the 14 territories without commonwealth status – Guam and the United States Virgin Islands – are organized, but haven't adopted their own constitutions. 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;[1] 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.[2]

List of constitutions


The following is a list of the current constitutions of the states in the United States. Each entry shows the ordinal number of the current constitution, the official name of the current constitution, the date on which the current constitution took effect, and the estimated length of the current constitution. Also below are a description of organic instruments with respect to additional territory.

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.

General Information on State Constitutions[3]
No. Official name Date of effect Estimated length Notes
6thConstitution of the State of AlabamaNovember 28, 1901 402,852
1stConstitution of the State of AlaskaJanuary 3, 1959 13,479
1stConstitution of the State of ArizonaFebruary 14, 1912 47,306
4thConstitution of the State of ArkansasOctober 13, 1874 59,120
2ndConstitution of the State of CaliforniaJanuary 1, 1880 76,930
1stConstitution of the State of ColoradoAugust 1, 1876 84,239
2ndConstitution of the State of ConnecticutDecember 30, 1965 16,401
4thConstitution of the State of DelawareJune 10, 1897 25,445
5thConstitution of the State of FloridaJanuary 7, 1969 49,230
10thConstitution of the State of GeorgiaJuly 1, 1983 41,684
1stConstitution of the State of HawaiiAugust 21, 1959 21,498[4]
1stConstitution of the State of IdahoJuly 3, 1890 24,626
4thConstitution of the State of IllinoisJuly 1, 1971 16,401
2ndConstitution of the State of IndianaNovember 1, 1851 11,610
2ndConstitution of the State of IowaAugust 3, 1857 11,089
1stConstitution of the State of KansasJanuary 29, 1861 14,097[5]
4thConstitution of the Commonwealth of KentuckyAugust 3, 1891 27,234
11thConstitution of the State of LouisianaJanuary 1, 1975 76,730
1stConstitution of the State of MaineMarch 3, 1820 16,313[6]
4thConstitution of the State of MarylandOctober 5, 1867 43,198
1stConstitution of the Commonwealth of MassachusettsOctober 25, 1780 45,283[7]
4thConstitution of the State of MichiganJanuary 1, 1964 31,164
1stConstitution of the State of MinnesotaMay 11, 1858 12,016
4thConstitution of the State of MississippiNovember 1, 1890 26,229
4thConstitution of the State of MissouriMarch 30, 1945 84,924
2ndConstitution of the State of MontanaJuly 1, 1973 12,790
2ndConstitution of the State of NebraskaNovember 1, 1875 34,934
1stConstitution of the State of NevadaOctober 31, 1864 37,418
3rdConstitution of the State of New HampshireJune 2, 1784 13,238[8]
3rdConstitution of the State of New JerseyJanuary 1, 1948 26,360
1stConstitution of the State of New MexicoJanuary 6, 1912 33,198
4thConstitution of the State of New YorkJanuary 1, 1895 49,360[9]
3rdConstitution of the State of North CarolinaJuly 1, 1971 17,177
1stConstitution of the State of North DakotaNovember 2, 1889 18,746
2ndConstitution of the State of OhioSeptember 1, 1851 63,140
1stConstitution of the State of OklahomaNovember 16, 1907 84,956
1stConstitution of the State of OregonFebruary 14, 1859 49,430
4thConstitution of the Commonwealth of PennsylvaniaJanuary 1, 1874 26,078[10]
2ndConstitution of the State of Rhode Island and Providence PlantationsJanuary 20, 1987 11,407
6thConstitution of the State of South CarolinaJanuary 1, 1896 27,421
1stConstitution of the State of South DakotaNovember 2, 1889 28,840
3rdConstitution of the State of TennesseeMarch 26, 1870 13,960
4thConstitution of the State of TexasFebruary 17, 1876 92,025[11]
1stConstitution of the State of UtahJanuary 4, 1896 20,700
1stConstitution of the State of VermontJuly 9, 1793 8,565[12]
7thConstitution of the Commonwealth of VirginiaJuly 1, 1971 22,570
1stConstitution of the State of WashingtonNovember 11, 1889 32,578
2ndConstitution of the State of West VirginiaAugust 22, 1872 33,324
1stConstitution of the State of WisconsinMay 29, 1848 15,102
1stConstitution of the State of WyomingJuly 10, 1890 26,349

Federal district charter

No. Official name Date of effect Notes
1stCharter of the District of ColumbiaDecember 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 1982[13] and 1987,[14] both referring to the district as the "State of New Columbia".

Commonwealth and Territorial constitutions

  • The Constitution of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, July 25, 1952. It was ratified by Puerto Rico's electorate in a referendum on March 3, 1952, approved by the United States Congress.
  • The Constitution of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands was drafted by thirty-nine elected delegates meeting in a constitutional convention on Saipan in 1976. Their proposed constitution was subsequently ratified by Northern Mariana Islands voters on March 6, 1977, and became effective January 9, 1978. Pursuant to the provisions of Section 202 of the Covenant, the Constitution of the Northern Mariana Islands was deemed to have been approved by the Government of the United States six months after the date of submission to the president. The six-month period having expired on October 22, 1977, President Carter issued a proclamation announcing the Constitution of the Northern Mariana Islands was deemed approved.[15]
  • The Constitution of the Territory of American Samoa was signed by 68 members of the 1960 constitutional convention and was approved by United States Secretary of the Interior Fred Andrew Seaton on 27 April 1960. It became effective 17 October 1960. Several amendments to the Constitution were approved in a referendum in the general elections in 1966, subsequently by Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall on 2 June 1967, and became effective 1 July 1967.[16]

Organic acts

See also


References


  1. "Covenant". June 17, 1975.
  2. "Proclamations". January 9, 1978.
  3. "Book of the States 2019, Chapter 1: State Constitutions". knowledgecenter.csg.org. Retrieved September 17, 2020.
  4. Excludes the constitutions of the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi and the Republic of Hawaiʻi.
  5. The Wyandotte Constitution supplanted the rejected Topeka Constitution, Lecompton Constitution, and Leavenworth Constitution.
  6. Excludes the 1876 recodification of the Constitution of the State of Maine.
  7. The Constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is currently the world's oldest written constitution that is still in effect.
  8. The first Constitution of the State of New Hampshire, adopted on January 5, 1776, was the first written constitution for an independent state in the New World and set the stage for the United States Declaration of Independence the following summer.
  9. Excludes the 1938 recodification of the Constitution of the State of New York.
  10. Excludes the 1968 recodification of the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
  11. Excludes the constitution of the Republic of Texas.
  12. Excludes the two constitutions of the Vermont Republic.
  13. http://dccode.westgroup.com/toc/default.wl?oFindType=V&oDocName=DC&oDB=DC%2DST%2DWEB%3BSTADC&DocName=DC010463193&FindType=X&DB=DC-TOC-WEB%3BSTADCTOC&RS=WLW2%2E07&VR=2%2E0%5B%5D
  14. http://dccode.westgroup.com/Find/Default.wl?DocName=DCHINEWCOLUMBIACONSTITUTIONENACTED1987&FindType=W&DB=DC-TOC-WEB%3BSTADCTOC&RS=WLW2%2E07&VR=2%2E0%5B%5D
  15. "Proclamations". October 24, 1977.
  16. "American Samoa Constitution". October 17, 1960.

Further reading


  • Bryce, James, viscount. The American Commonwealth (2nd ed., rev.; London: Macmillan and Co., 1891), vol. 1, p. [413]-445, [683]-724, et passim.
  • Hammons, Christopher W. (1999). Was James Madison wrong? Rethinking the American preference for short, framework-oriented constitutions. American Political Science Review. Dec. 1999.
    • The appendices to this article contain substantial data on state constitutions.
  • Robinson Woodward-Burns. 2021. Hidden Laws: How State Constitutions Stabilize American Politics. Yale University Press.