amendment, in law, alteration of the provisions of a legal document. The term usually refers to the alteration of a statute or a constitution , but it is also applied in parliamentary law to proposed changes to a bill or motion under consideration, and in judicial procedure to the correction of errors. A statute may be amended by the passage of an act that is identified specifically as an amendment to it or by a new statute that renders some of its provisions nugatory. Written constitutions, however, for the most part must be amended by an exactly prescribed procedure. The Constitution of the United States , as provided in Article 5, may be amended when two thirds of each house of Congress approves a proposed amendment (approval by the president is not required), and three fourths of the states thereafter ratify it, sometimes within a set period. Congress decides whether state ratification shall be by vote of the legislatures or by popularly elected conventions. Only in the case of the Twenty-first Amendment (repealing prohibition) has the convention system been used. In many U.S. states, a proposed amendment to the state constitution must be submitted to the voters in a referendum.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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