Principles of American Democracy
What Is an Amendment

What is an amendment?

An amendment is a formal change or addition to a document, often a constitution or law. The process of amending a document is a way to alter it without starting from scratch, allowing it to evolve and adapt over time.

In the context of the United States Constitution, an amendment refers to a change or addition to the Constitution. As of my knowledge cutoff in September 2021, there have been 27 amendments to the U.S. Constitution. The first ten, known collectively as the Bill of Rights, were ratified simultaneously in 1791, and they guarantee fundamental rights and freedoms, such as freedom of speech, religion, and the press, as well as protections against unreasonable searches and seizures, and cruel and unusual punishment.

The process for amending the U.S. Constitution is outlined in Article V. It requires a proposal (either by a two-thirds majority vote in both the House of Representatives and the Senate or by a constitutional convention called for by two-thirds of the State legislatures), followed by ratification by three-quarters of the states (either by their legislatures or by ratifying conventions).

This process is intentionally challenging to ensure stability and prevent easy alteration of the Constitution, but it also allows for necessary changes over time. Notable amendments include the 19th (giving women the right to vote), the 22nd (limiting the president to two terms), and the 26th (lowering the voting age to 18).