(KTXL) – The Constitution of California is the fundamental legal document that establishes the duties, structure, and authority of the most populous state in the nation.
As the 8th-longest Constitution in the world, the document details the unalienable rights of the people who call the Golden State home, who today number thirty-nine million. Originally adopted in 1848, the Constitution was revised for the first time thirty years later, in 1878, and since then has been adjusted hundreds of times.
But what does it take to add an amendment to California’s Constitution? There are two ways to do it, one involving the legislature and voters, and the other involving an initiative.
Section 3 of Article 18 allows legislators to propose revisions to the state’s Constitution. Amending the Constitution through the legislature is a two-step process.
First, elected officials must approve the proposal by a two-thirds vote in both the Assembly and Senate. When the amendment clears the legislature, voters may approve or reject the measure at the ballot box. If the proposal earns simple majority support — 50% plus one vote — the proposal becomes the law of the land.
However, amending the constitution through a bicameral system is a strenuous process. With increasing political polarization and deadlock, there is no guarantee elected officials will preemptively pass an amendment.
With that in mind, Section 3 of Article 18 in California’s Constitution empowers citizens to launch initiative campaigns.
Residents may bypass the legislature and force an initiative on the ballot if they obtain at least 8% of the votes cast in the previous gubernatorial election – one of the lowest thresholds of any state in the country.
For example, in the 2018 governor’s election, more than 12 million people voted, therefore, 8% of this amount would be just above 1 million signatures needed.
Only propositions approved by a majority of California’s electorate become law.
While reforming any long-standing legal document is no easy feat, it’s not unprecedented. The United States Constitution has been amended twenty-seven times since 1788. California, on the other hand, leads the nation in the amendment process – with more than 500 approved changes – also making it the second-most amended Constitution in the United States after Alabama.