State ratifying conventions

State ratifying conventions

State ratifying conventions are one of the two methods established by Article V of the United States Constitution for ratifying constitutional amendments. Ratifying conventions have only been used for the ratification of the 21st Amendment. All others have been proposed for ratification by the state legislatures.


Constitutional text

Article V reads in pertinent part (italics added):

The Congress, whenever two thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose Amendments to this Constitution, or, on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments, which, in either Case, shall be valid to all Intents and Purposes, as Part of this Constitution, when ratified by the Legislatures of three fourths thereof, or by Conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other Mode of Ratification may be proposed by the Congress....

Use of the convention ratification option

Ratification of proposed amendment has been done by state conventions once: the 1933 ratification process of the 21st Amendment.[1] The 21st is also the only constitutional amendment that repealed another one, namely, the 18th Amendment, which had been ratified 14 years earlier.

A state ratifying convention may not change the proposed amendment, but must accept or reject it.


Clearly, the framers of the Constitution wanted a means of sometimes bypassing the state legislatures in the ratification process. To some extent, the convention method of ratification loosely approximates a one-state, one-vote national referendum on a specific proposed constitutional amendment, thus allowing the sentiments of registered voters to be heard on highly sensitive issues.

New Mexico law provides that the members of its legislature would themselves make up such a convention, if Congress were to again select that particular method of ratification. It is unclear whether the law violates the United States Constitution.


  1. ^ Everett S. Brown, Ratification of the Twenty First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States: State Convention Records and Laws (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1938).

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