What are amendments to the Constitution?

Changes to the Constitution Changes or additions made to the original document are called amendments. The first ten amendments are known as the Bill of Rights.

The Constitution of The United States is the primary set of laws that govern the U.S. and any other laws passed by congress or the states or any other governing body are subordinate to it and can not violate the contents of the constitution. No law could be passed that contradicts any part of the constitution and the Supreme Court has the authority to declare a law as contrary to the constitution (unconstitutional), invalid and unenforceable.

A group called the Anti-federalists objected to the constitution as it was originally written. They felt that it gave the federal government to much power and could lead to abuse of that power. Before the Constitution could be ratified and accepted as law, a group of laws to address this issue were submitted to be included as part of the constitution. Rather than actually modify the constitution, ten of these laws were accepted as amendments to the constitution. These first ten amendments are now known as the Bill of Rights. Since than, whenever a new law was needed that did not conform to the constitution, it had to be submitted as an amendment to the Constitution of the U.S.

Although a proposed law goes into effect by being passed by both houses of congress and than by the President, an amendment needs a more involved procedure.

A constitutional amendment can be proposed by a two-thirds majority vote in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. It can also be proposed by a constitutional convention called for by two-thirds of the State legislatures, although this has not yet occurred. It than has to be ratified by 3/4 of the states by having the state legislatures approve it or by state ratifying (constitutional) conventions approving it. Congress decides whether it is done by the legislatures or conventions.

Once three fourths of the states have ratified the amendment, it becomes part of the constitution.