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of the United States
|Preamble and Articles|
|Amendments to the Constitution|
Article Five of the United States Constitution describes the process for altering the Constitution. Under Article Five, the process to alter the Constitution consists of proposing an amendment or amendments, and subsequent ratification.
Amendments may be proposed either by the Congress with a two-thirds vote in both the House of Representatives and the Senate; or by a convention to propose amendments called by Congress at the request of two-thirds of the state legislatures. To become part of the Constitution, an amendment must then be ratified by either—as determined by Congress—the legislatures of three-quarters of the states or by ratifying conventions conducted in three-quarters of the states, a process utilized only once thus far in American history with the 1933 ratification of the Twenty-First Amendment. The vote of each state (to either ratify or reject a proposed amendment) carries equal weight, regardless of a state's population or length of time in the Union. Article Five is silent regarding deadlines for the ratification of proposed amendments, but most amendments proposed since 1917 have included a deadline for ratification. Legal scholars generally agree that the amending process of Article Five can itself be amended by the procedures laid out in Article Five, but there is some disagreement over whether Article Five is the exclusive means of amending the Constitution.
In addition to defining the procedures for altering the Constitution, Article Five also shields three clauses in Article I from ordinary amendment by attaching stipulations. Regarding two of the clauses—one concerning importation of slaves and the other apportionment of direct taxes—the prohibition on amendment was absolute but of limited duration, expiring in 1808; the third was without an expiration date but less absolute: "no state, without its consent, shall be deprived of its equal Suffrage in the Senate." Scholars disagree as to whether this shielding clause can itself be amended by the procedures laid out in Article Five.