The Words We Live By
Linda R. Monk
Part II: Amendments to the Constitution of the United States
FUTURECASTS online magazine
Vol. 7, No. 4, 4/1/05.
The Bill of Rights
Freedom "from" government:
| The Bill of Rights was one of those accommodations
required to gain ratification of the Constitution. The new government had to be
given enough power to govern, and despite all the checks and balances included
in the original Constitution,
there were still many who believed that power would be abused. See, Monk, "The
Words We Live By," Part I, "The 1789 Constitution of the
These first Amendments "protected the individual liberties that many Americans feared would be weakened under the new Constitution.
| Of course, they were right - as history has proven
several times. All governments tend to abuse their powers. Every government
branch and agency has at various times abused its powers.
The addition of the Bill of Rights has proven its value repeatedly. These first Amendments "protected the individual liberties that many Americans feared would be weakened under the new Constitution," Monk notes.
We are kept free "from" government authority pursuant to Constitutional rights. So far, the Constitution contains no "positive" rights.
The Constitution enshrines "negative" rights, Monk points out. We are Constitutionally free "from" government authority pursuant to these rights. So far, the Constitution contains no "positive" rights. Monk suggests such "positive" rights as the "right" to "meaningful employment" - to education - to health care - could be added to the Constitution. Indeed, there are many who advocate such Amendments.
Monk concludes that we are free to decide, "along with our fellow citizens, what words we will live by." The implication is that the establishment of "positive rights" is just a matter of including the appropriate words in the Constitution.
"For a constitution to have staying power, it must be above ordinary law, and therefore above the reach of mere majorities. Yet a constitution also must be flexible enough to adapt to crises without becoming obsolete."
There have been only 27 Amendments in over two centuries of experience under the Constitution. As Monk points out:
| The First
Amendment became the first amendment because the first two of the twelve
proposed amendments in the Bill of Rights were not ratified. These had to do
with reapportionment - which was never ratified - and the timing of
Congressional pay raises - which in 1992 became the Twenty Seventh - and currently the
last - Amendment ratified.
These freedoms "enable citizens to participate in the process of self-government." They assure that the nation will bring its differences right out in the open, and are thus themselves often at the center of the most contentious debates.
First Amendment freedoms provide freedom of expression.
These freedoms "enable citizens to participate in the process of self-government." They assure that the nation will bring its differences right out in the open, and are thus themselves often at the center of the most contentious debates. As Monk points out:
The First Amendment bars only "state action" - actions by government or its agents.
By its terms, the First Amendment applies only to the
federal government. It prohibits Congressional action. It does not apply to
the states or to private parties. It bars only "state action" -
actions by government or its agents. As an example, Monk points out that it
"does not protect employees of private companies who criticize their
|In 1897, the Supreme Court began to apply to the states certain provisions of the Bill of Rights. It began to determine the scope of the Due Process Clause and Equal Rights Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, eventually determining that they "incorporated" - and thus applied to the states - most of the major provisions of the Bill of Rights - including the First Amendment rights. See, "The Fourteenth Amendment," below.
The need for express protections for religious liberty was widely felt by the first Congress convened in 1789.
The Establishment Clause does not require discrimination against religious groups.
Study of the bible and other religious material can be a part of the curricula if the instruction is conducted in a secular manner.
Outside the schools, prayers, and even paid chaplains at official events, have been accepted.
The history and problems of established religions
and religious intolerance in Colonial America and under the Articles of
Confederation (hereinafter, the "Articles") are briefly
reviewed by Monk. By 1787, it was clear that religion could tear the Union
apart. One of the few civil rights included in the original Constitution was the
Article VI prohibition of religious tests for federal offices. The need for
express protections for religious liberty was widely felt by the first Congress
convened in 1789.
For civil law purposes, the Supreme Court has applied a "compelling interest" test for approval of limitations that impact religious practices.
The Free Exercise Clause does not shield religious activities
from secular criminal laws or general regulations. Laws on polygamy - and illicit
drugs - have been applied to religious activities.
The history of free speech rights is briefly reviewed by Monk.
During the administration of Pres. John Adams, the 1798 Sedition Laws were passed to
quell criticism of the federal government. They were permitted to expire in 1801
during the administration of Pres. Jefferson.
Public speeches and demonstrations that do not unduly hinder public activities are protected.
Regulation of "public forums" "cannot discriminate based on the nature of the message being expressed."
Limits cannot be placed on individual campaign expenditures.
Only incitement to illegal action that is both imminent and possible can be criminalized.
Free speech questions have since been a regular source of employment
for the courts.
5) The limits of free speech: Categories of speech that are not covered
by the First Amendment or are covered in just a limited manner include obscenity,
defamation, fighting words, and incitement to illegal action. However, only
incitement to illegal action that is both imminent and possible can be
criminalized. Free speech rights in schools are limited.
Absent great exigencies, the government may not censor a work before it is published -- a practice known as prior restraint. However, the government can punish authors or editors after publication."
Highlights of the long struggle over government attempts to control the content of published work is provided by Monk. These include the 1735 trial of John Peter Zenger for seditious libel - involving criticism of the royal governor. The author sets forth the current status of this freedom.
"Great exigencies" include protection of information about
troop movements during wartime. However, the publication of the "Pentagon
Papers" - a secret analysis of the causes for the Vietnam War - did not
endanger national security. Even the right to a fair trial is insufficient to
block publication of sensational details of the crime and trial.
To encourage "robust public debate," a libel of public officials or public figures must not only be a falsehood, it must also be published with "actual malice."
The risk that libel lawsuits will be used to chill press coverage
has led the Supreme Court to set a very high standard of proof in cases
involving public officials and public figures. To encourage "robust public
debate," a libel of public officials or public figures must not only be a
falsehood, it must also be published with "actual malice." This
requires proof of either "knowledge that it was false or - - - reckless
disregard of whether it was false or not."
Freedom of assembly can be subject to restrictions on time, place and manner, if such restriction is not a pretext for prevention.
These freedoms run back to the Magna Carta (1215).
This freedom is protected by the First Amendment by implication.
It is not expressly included.
The dispute over the Second Amendment right to bear arms swirls about the question of whether the Amendment applies to individual self-defense as well as to national and state defense - to individual rights or just the collective rights of the states..
Even individual rights are never absolute. The question of the extent of permissible regulation thus remains.
The Supreme Court has yet to rule on these questions. However,
it has ruled that the Second Amendment is not incorporated into the Fourteenth
Amendment, and so does not apply to the states. It thus does not prohibit state and local regulation of
The Third Amendment - The Quartering of Troops:
The quartering of troops in private homes was one of the most resented practices leading to the Revolution.
This was one of the most widely desired of the Bill of Rights
Amendments, Monk points out. However, it has come into play for this purpose on
only a couple of occasions since passage. Nevertheless, it has had some
significance as a makeweight support for modern "right to privacy"
"The right to be left alone" is the famous explanation of the Fourth Amendment offered by Justice Louis Brandeis. This Amendment responds to another much resented abuse of British colonial authorities. It also serves as one of the primary sources for an implied Constitutional "right to privacy."
The exclusion of illegally obtained evidence from criminal trials
is one of the most controversial Fourth Amendment issues. What constitutes an
illegal search is another.
The Fourth Amendment "protects people, not places."
Applicable specifically to "persons, houses, papers and
effects," the Supreme Court originally construed the Amendment
narrowly within these stated boundaries. Wiretapping conducted outside the house
was thus originally ruled as not covered.
Most searches must be justified by "probable cause" - "that is, a reasonable belief that a particular person has committed a particular crime."
Searches must be "reasonable" wherever a reasonable expectation of privacy exists. Most must be justified by
"probable cause" - "that is, a reasonable belief that a
particular person has committed a particular crime." This applies even for
searches that do not require a judicial warrant.
"Probable cause is more than just the arbitrary whim of a law enforcement officer, although it is less proof than required to convict a person of a crime."
The warrant must specify where the the search will occur and what or whom is being seized."
The Warrant Clause provides the "probable cause" standard for the issuance of court orders authorizing searches and seizures. The standard requires "a reasonable belief that a particular person has committed a particular crime." Monk explains:
Warrants are not required by the Fourth Amendment, but they are
clearly preferred. That means they must be obtained where that is not
Evidence seized during an illegal search must be excluded from court.
| The exclusionary rule is a means adopted by the Supreme Court
for enforcement of Fourth Amendment requirements. Evidence seized during an
illegal search must be excluded from court. This rule has been applied to state
courts since the 1961 decision in Mapp v. Ohio.
As Monk notes, there are some exceptions to the rule - for evidence that would have inevitably been found in any case, and for warrants believed valid but later found to have been invalid. This rule has been frequently thwarted by police who lie under oath in search and seizure proceedings.
There are five "due process" rights in this Amendment that limit the ability of government to take action against individuals.
Most states permit prosecutors to file a sworn statement - an "information" - attesting to the sufficiency of the evidence. A judge will then hold a preliminary hearing on the matter.
This clause has never been applied to the states. Most states permit
prosecutors to file a sworn statement - an "information" - attesting
to the sufficiency of the evidence. A judge will then hold a preliminary hearing
on the matter. Unlike grand jury proceedings, these are open to the public, and
both sides can present evidence.
Defendants can appeal for a new trial after conviction, but further prosecution is barred after an acquittal.
Both federal and state governments may prosecute for the same offense. Criminal acquittal does not bar a subsequent civil suit for damages.
Double jeopardy does not apply to mistrials or jury deadlocks.
Defendants can appeal for a new trial after conviction, but further prosecution
is barred after an acquittal. However, a prosecutor can appeal for a harsher
sentence of a convicted defendant - except when requesting the death sentence.
"Torture produces inherently unreliable confessions, because defendants will say anything to make the pain stop."
The famous "Miranda warning" followed existing Federal Bureau of Investigation practice. All questioning must stop as soon as a defendant invokes his rights. Violations taint not only the confession itself, but all evidence found as a result of such confession unless discovery was "inevitable."
Because of common use of coercive interrogation methods, the Supreme
Court in its 1966 Miranda v. Arizona ruling, decided that all defendants must be
warned of their rights before questioning. The famous "Miranda
warning" followed existing Federal Bureau of Investigation practice. All
questioning must stop as soon as a defendant invokes his rights. Violations
taint not only the confession itself, but all evidence found as a result of such
confession unless discovery was "inevitable."
Procedural due process requires that government follow fair procedures in both criminal and civil cases and administrative proceedings affecting individual private interests.
The substantive due process requirement is a modern concept that has
had much more use under the Fourteenth Amendment which applies to the states, so
the author offers little content at this point.
"Just compensation" is fair market value. Incidental expenses of replacement or moving are not included.
When does regulation amount to a taking that requires compensation?
This is the most common question today under this clause. Zoning laws and
historic preservation statutes have been upheld as long as they don't destroy
the value of the property.
A defendant may waive any or all of these trial rights. This Amendment does not apply to minor offenses - such as traffic violations or other offenses that cannot result in imprisonment for 6 months or more.
| This Amendment has been applied to the states by incorporation
in the Fourteenth Amendment. However, the standards are not as rigorous for the
states in two respects.
Conviction in federal courts requires unanimous verdicts by 12 member juries. States can have as few as 6 members on a jury except for death penalty cases. If there are more than 6 people on a state court jury, a verdict need not be unanimous - except in death penalty cases.
As of the year 2000, only 4.3% of federal criminal charges culminated in jury verdicts.
However, this right, too, can be waived - and in practice is waived in the vast majority of cases. Monk reports that as of the year 2000, only 4.3% of federal criminal charges culminated in jury verdicts. Most cases are resolved through plea bargains. (Indeed, the system would probably collapse without plea bargain procedures.)
For high profile cases, the court may take steps to reduce publicity if such steps are needed to assure a fair trial. Typical measures that may be taken at the request of the defendant include a change in venue and sequestration of the jury. However, there is a general right to public attendance at a trial in reasonable numbers. The media has a right to attend and cover a trial. Defendants who request a change of venue waive their right to a local jury.
The jury pool must include a "representative cross-section of the community," but this need not be true of the final jury.
The jury pool must include a "representative cross-section of the community," but this need not be true of the final jury. In death penalty cases, anyone who would refuse to impose the death penalty may be excused, but not those with moral reservations about it.
The right of cross examination and confrontation bars hearsay evidence - testimony about a statement of a third party. However, there are numerous exceptions to this rule. Except for child abuse cases, this requirement is for face-to-face confrontation.
Assistance of counsel must be "effective," but need not be error-free unless specific errors deprived the defendant of adequate representation.
Assistance of counsel must be "effective," but need not be
error-free unless specific errors deprived the defendant of adequate
representation. This right extends to having counsel present at police
The viability of trial by jury in modern civil cases is a subject of considerable current controversy. Monk reviews the historic background and development of this right.
Findings of fact are final as long as they are supported by evidence that is "substantial."
Juries are the finders of fact. These findings of fact are final as long as they are supported by evidence that is at least "substantial." The law applied to those facts is determined by the judge, whose decisions can be reviewed by other judges on appeal. Monk explains:
Trial by jury was first developed in England for resolving civil disputes. However, it was abolished in England in the 19th century to increase the efficiency of the courts.
The litigants may waive their jury trial rights. Civil juries can be
composed of as few as six jurors. Verdicts must be unanimous unless the
litigants stipulate otherwise. Seventh Amendment jury trial rights have so far
not been applied to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment.
The definition of cruel and unusual punishment is based on the constantly evolving standard of decency. Whippings and the cutting off of ears were acceptable punishments at the end of the 18th century, but are not acceptable today.
Between 1973 and 2002, Monk reports, more than 100 inmates of death row have been released upon proof of innocence. Nevertheless, proponents point out that this is proof that the system works. They also point out that capital punishment is specifically recognized as appropriate in the Fifth Amendment.
The death penalty is today the primary controversy under this
Amendment. Monk provides extensive coverage of this controversy.
Monk summarizes current procedures, including the
division of the trial into a guilt determination phase and a penalty
determination phase - the weighing of aggravating and mitigating factors in the
penalty phase - the rights of appeal of state cases through state appellate
courts and, by writ of habeas corpus, through federal courts as well - the
limitation of the death penalty to murder cases and to the major participants
under the felony murder rule - and the limitations based on the youth and mental
competence of the defendant. (The age limit is now 18.)
For other types of crimes, punishment must generally be proportional
to the crime. However, the Supreme Court has almost always deferred to the
judgment of legislators for this determination.
The purpose of bail is to assure the appearance of the defendant in court when his case comes up, and its amount should be limited by what is clearly for that purpose.
The right to bail is not unconditional, Monk points out. However, when allowed as determined by federal or state law, it must not be excessive. The purpose of bail is to assure the appearance of the defendant in court when his case comes up, and its amount should be limited by what is clearly for that purpose. The author explains:
Bail is generally denied in capital cases. The Supreme Court has also
accepted that bail can be denied for defendants believed to pose a danger to the
community. This is called "preventive detention."
The Supreme Court has so far refused to be influenced by the Ninth Amendment. As the federal government persistently expands its powers primarily under its taxing, spending, and interstate commerce authority, the Supreme Court persistently rejects opposition based on the Ninth Amendment.
Unenumerated rights recognized by the Supreme Court include the
right to travel, the right to vote, and the right of privacy. However, the Ninth
Amendment has been invoked just as a makeweight argument in these cases. The
primary protection of such rights has been found in the "liberty"
provision of the Due Process Clauses of the Fifth and Fourteenth
The Tenth Amendment - State's Rights:
This Amendment protects the states - not individuals. It protects state "powers," not "rights."
The proper balance in the federal system between the powers of the national government and the powers of the states determines the nature of the federal system. This dispute would ultimately lead to the Civil War and the Civil War Amendments that would fundamentally alter this balance. This balance would even further be fundamentally altered during the crisis of the Great Depression and the advent of the New Deal command economy experiments of Franklin D. Roosevelt.
In McCullogh v. Maryland (1819), the Supreme Court construed
the Tenth Amendment narrowly and the implied powers of the national government
broadly. After all, the lack of implied powers was one of the gravest of the weaknesses
of the Articles that the Constitution was meant to fix. The establishment of a
national bank - free of state taxation or regulation - was thus within the Necessary
and Proper powers of the federal government.
Today, the federalism balance between federal and state powers is still determined primarily in the political arena - of the federal government.
The Tenth Amendment was reduced to a mere "truism" and
was totally disregarded by the liberal Courts of the three middle decades of the 20th century. Thus, the states were left merely with whatever powers the federal
government chose not to exercise.
Pre-Civil War Amendments
The Eleventh Amendment - Lawsuits against the States:
To be subject to suit, states must waive sovereign immunity - and in modern times, they frequently do.
The traditional doctrine of "sovereign immunity" under which a government cannot be sued without its consent is reasserted on behalf of the states by this Amendment. Ratified in 1795, it reverses a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that limited sovereign immunity to the federal government. To be subject to suit, states must waive sovereign immunity - and in modern times, they frequently do.
| Suits against a state by the federal government or by
other states are not barred by this Amendment, however. Critics of the
narrowness of this exception argue that this leaves the states free to
discriminate, since the federal government doesn't have the resources to bring
suits on behalf of individuals.
The Twelfth Amendment - Choosing the President:
Separate ballots for the President and Vice President were provided for by
the Twelfth Amendment in 1804 as a result of the advent of political parties,
and a tie in the electoral college in 1800. This change to Article II, Section
1, made it very unlikely that the two would be political adversaries, as
occurred in 1796 and 1800.
In the event that no candidate wins a majority in the electoral
college, this Amendment provides that the House of Representatives chooses among the top three candidates
"by states, the representation from each state having one vote." This
is yet another compromise in favor of the smaller states. Thomas Jefferson was
chosen by the House in 1800 under the original Article II, Section 1 provisions.
John Quincy Adams, elected in 1824, has been the only President chosen
under the Twelfth Amendment provisions.
The Civil War Amendments
The evolving controversy over slavery that culminated in the Civil War and the Civil War Amendments is summarized by Monk. The Thirteenth Amendment was ratified in 1865.
Slavery was legal in all 13 colonies, and was still legal in all 13 states in 1776. The struggles to limit and abolish slavery began right after the Revolution.
The ban on "involuntary servitude" has been invoked against peonage laws that force laborers to work to pay off debts.
Congress is expressly provided with enforcement powers in
Section 2 of the Thirteenth Amendment. This is the first time such a provision
was included in an Amendment. In 1968, the Supreme Court ruled that this
included power to prevent discrimination in private real estate transactions.
Sections 1 and 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment are the provisions that are of current importance. Indeed, they are of vast importance. The Fourteenth Amendment was ratified in 1868.
| Section 5 provides express power for Congressional enforcement
legislation, like the similar provision in the Thirteenth Amendment. The Supreme
Court has viewed this power narrowly - limiting it to legislation protecting
rights - like the 1965 Voting Rights Act. It does not authorize an expansion of
rights. The Court has rejected efforts under this Section to prohibit private
discrimination, enlarge affirmative action programs, and protect religious
practices from generally applied state law.
Sections 2 through 4 enforce the results of the Civil War.
The Citizenship Clause defined citizenship in the Constitution
for the first time. It overturned the 1957 Dred Scott decision that ruled that
African Americans - free or slave - could never be citizens.
Under the Due Process Clause, the Court began the process of nationalizing, one by one, most of the major provisions of the Bill of Rights.
It is the Due Process Clause that has served to apply most of the rights in the Bill of Rights to the states. Monk explains:
The concept that "due process" has substantive as well as
procedural aspects is covered by Monk. The concept of substantive due process
has been used to protect both property and liberty interests. However, the
protection of property interests under the Due Process Clause is currently out
of fashion. Examples of liberty interests protected include the right to teach a
foreign language, to run private schools, to travel, to refuse medical
treatment, and the right of privacy.
Individual rights in the Bill of Rights that have not been incorporated in the Fourteenth Amendment are:
The author provides light coverage of the abortion and assisted suicide
"Many constitutional scholars believe that, through its wide scope and promise of equality, the Fourteenth Amendment created a new Constitution."
Only discrimination by government is restricted - not discrimination by private groups or individuals. It prohibits "unreasonable" discrimination by government.
The Equal Protection Clause of Section 1 by its terms covers everyone. It thus does far more than just resolve the legal status of former slaves. Monk explains:
The Equal Protection Clause contains the first use in the Constitution of the word "equal" regarding the rights of individuals. Only discrimination by government is restricted - not discrimination by private groups or individuals. It prohibits "unreasonable" discrimination by government. Monk explains:
Monk covers the development of racial discrimination law under the
Fourteenth Amendment, including the "separate but equal doctrine" - the
WW-II internment of Japanese Americans - the ultimate rejection in Brown v. Board
of Education (1954) of the possibility of separate being equal - the enforcement
of Court desegregation orders that sometimes required the deployment of troops -
and ultimately the disputes over affirmative action.
Unlike the federal Senate, state senates as well as state legislatures must be apportioned on a one person, one vote basis. Race can be a factor in the reapportionment of voting districts, but not the primary factor.
Other types of discrimination to which the Equal Protection Clause
applies include discrimination against aliens and homosexuals. Like gender
discrimination, these cases do not involve a "suspect class" such as
race or minority ethnic groups. So the test for the "reasonableness" of
discriminatory legislation is lower than the "compelling interest"
The Fifteenth Amendment - Voting Rights for Emancipated Men:
Only men were granted voting rights under the Fifteenth Amendment, Monk points out. Moreover, "for almost one hundred years after its ratification [in 1870], the Fifteenth Amendment offered very little protection to African American men, either."
Here, too, Congress is given express enforcement powers. This was one
of the bases of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
The Southern states responded with laws that did not mention race,
but nevertheless restricted suffrage in ways that had the effect of
discriminating against African Americans. A prominent example provided by Monk
was literacy tests that were accompanied by grandfather provisions. White
suffrage was protected by excluding from the literacy test requirement those who
were permitted to vote before ratification of the Fifteenth Amendment.
Progressive Era Amendments
This Amendment was required to overcome the limitation in Article I, Section 9, that direct taxes be in proportion to population in each state. It was ratified in 1913 as part of the Progressive Era reforms.
| This resulted as intended in a vast increase in
the spending power of the federal government.
The Seventeenth Amendment - Direct Election of Senators:
This Amendment changes Article I, Section 3, that provided
that federal Senators would be chosen by State legislatures. Ratified in 1913 as
part of the Progressive Era Amendments, it provides that federal Senators are to
be chosen by popular vote, according to the voter qualifications established by
the states for their own "most numerous" legislative branch. As Monk
notes, this also permitted women to vote for federal Senators from those states
that permitted women's suffrage for state elections.
The Eighteenth Amendment - Prohibition:
A great failed
social experiment, prohibition was doubly damaging because it was set in
the concrete of a Constitutional Amendment. Congress and the States were
provided concurrent enforcement power - to no avail.
The Nineteenth Amendment - Women's Suffrage:
Thirty states had already extended some form of suffrage to women by 1919. The women's suffrage Amendment was ratified in 1920 - the last of the Progressive Era Amendments.
Congress is given appropriate enforcement powers by the Amendment. However, there was no time limit included for ratification. The author provides some of the background of the women's suffrage campaign.
Later Twentieth Century Amendments
The Twentieth Amendment - Presidential and Congressional Terms:
The post election "lame duck" period of Presidential and Congressional terms is shortened by this Amendment, which was ratified in 1933.
Congressional terms begin earlier than those of
the executive branch so Congress can resolve inconclusive Presidential and Vice
The order of succession after the President is - the Vice President - the Speaker of the House - the president pro tempore of the Senate - the Secretary of State - and then the remaining cabinet members according to the date their departments were created.
Section 3 and Section 4 of the Twentieth Amendment
provide for Vice Presidential succession to the Presidency in case of death or
lack of qualification of a President, and authorization for Congress by statute
to deal with further succession problems affecting either the Presidency or the
Vice Presidency both after and before the counting of electoral votes. The
Amendment ends with a seven year time limit for ratification.
The Twenty First Amendment - Prohibition Repealed:
Eighteenth Amendment was repealed in 1933. However, the states were left
with authority to prohibit or otherwise regulate alcoholic beverages, and
violations of such laws and regulations are a federal as well as a state
The Twenty Second Amendment - Presidential Term Limits:
In reaction to the four term presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt, this
Amendment, ratified in 1951, enshrined in the Constitution the tradition begun
with George Washington of limiting individual Presidents to two terms. It
contains a seven year time limit for ratification.
The Twenty Third Amendment - Electoral Votes for the District of Columbia:
The total electoral votes are now 538.
The capitol district, the District of Columbia, received
3 electoral votes for the election of the President and Vice President when this
Amendment was ratified in 1961. Congress was given full authority to enforce
this Amendment. There was no time limit imposed on ratification.
The Twenty Fourth Amendment - Prohibition of Poll Taxes:
Denial of suffrage for "failure to pay any poll tax or
other taxes" is prohibited by this Amendment, which was ratified in 1964. This
Amendment applies to all elections for federal office and for pertinent primary
elections of political parties. Congress is given enforcement authority.
The Twenty Fifth Amendment - Presidential Succession and Disability:
| A mechanism for dealing with succession problems in the
event of Presidential removal, resignation or disability was provided by
ratification of this Amendment in 1967. There was no time limit set for the
ratification of this Amendment.
The Vice President then immediately assumes the powers and duties of the Presidency as Acting President.
A President may declare himself incapacitated or be
declared incapacitated by the Vice President and a majority of the
"principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as
the Congress may by law provide." This declaration must be transmitted to
the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House. The Vice
President then immediately assumes the powers and duties of the Presidency as
Vice Presidential vacancies are filled upon nomination by the President and majority vote of both chambers of Congress. This procedure was implemented for the replacement of Vice Pres. Spiro Agnew upon his resignation from office under fire in 1973. Gerald Ford was nominated by Pres. Richard Nixon and became President in 1974 upon the resignation under fire of Nixon. Ford then nominated Nelson Rockefeller for Vice President.
When Pres. Ronald Reagan was shot and wounded in 1981, he did
not formally relinquish his duties. However, when he underwent surgery in 1985,
he formally informed Congress that Vice Pres. Bush (I) would assume Presidential
duties while he was under anesthesia.
The Twenty Sixth Amendment - Minimum Voting Age set at 18 Years:
| In response to the Vietnam War, this Amendment was ratified in 1971.
There was no time limit provided for the ratification of this Amendment, but it
was ratified in 107 days - the fastest ever.
The Twenty Seventh Amendment - Date of Effectiveness of Congressional Pay Increases:
This original part of the Bill of Rights was ratified in 1992 - more than two centuries after it had been proposed.
It provides voters a chance to express their reaction to Congressional pay raises prior to the time when the raises take effect.
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