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"Informal Amendment"

Another way the Constitution's meaning is changed is often referred to as "informal amendment." This phrase is a misnomer, because there is no way to informally amend the Constitution, only the formal way. However, the meaning of the Constitution, or the interpretation, can change over time.

There are two main ways that the interpretation of the Constitution changes, and hence its meaning. The first is simply that circumstances can change. One prime example is the extension of the vote. In the times of the Constitutional Convention, the vote was often granted only to monied land holders. Over time, this changed and the vote was extended to more and more groups. Finally, the vote was extended to all males, then all persons 21 and older, and then to all persons 18 and older. The informal status quo became law, a part of the Constitution, because that was the direction the culture was headed. Another example is the political process that has evolved in the United States: political parties, and their trappings (such as primaries and conventions) are not mentioned or contemplated in the Constitution, but they are fundamental to our political system.

The second major way the meaning of the Constitution changes is through the judiciary. As the ultimate arbiter of how the Constitution is interpreted, the judiciary wields more actual power than the Constitution alludes to. For example, before the Privacy Cases, it was perfectly constitutional for a state to forbid married couples from using contraception; for a state to forbid blacks and whites to marry; to abolish abortion. Because of judicial changes in the interpretation of the Constitution, the nation's outlook on these issues changed.

In neither of these cases was the Constitution changed. Rather, the way we looked at the Constitution changed, and these changes had a far-reaching effect. These changes in meaning are significant because they can happen by a simple judge's ruling and they are not a part of the Constitution and so they can be changed later.

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12y ago
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8y ago

An informal amendment is used when changes to an existing amendment need to be made if existing amendments need to be interpreted differently.

Other examples include laws allowing gay marriage and laws that forbid whites to marry blacks. Each of these starts off as an informal amendment and, with time, are added as a formal amendment to the Constitution.

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8y ago

There are no informal amendments in the constitution. In total there are 27 amendments.

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Q: What is an example of an informal amendment to the US Constitution?
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Is the bill of rights a formal or informal amendment process?

The Bill of Rights was formally adopted into the US constitution.


Is the necessary and proper clause formal or informal amendment process?

Neither. The Necessary and Proper Clause is part of the original Articles of the US Constitution (Article I, Section 8, Clause 18), so it's not an amendment, but is a formal part of the US Constitution. When use of the Necessary and Proper clause is expanded beyond the justifiable reach of Congress, that would be considered an informal amendment process.


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The method to change the US Constitution is to make amendments to it. This has been done many occasions. One example is the 13th amendment which abolished slavery.


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The Thirteenth Amendment to the US Constitution was adopted on December 6, 1865. It is the Amendment that abolished slavery and involuntary servitude.


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Informal Amendment ProcessThe term "Informal Amendment Process" refers to changes in the interpretation or application of the Constitution by expanding constitutional rights (such as voting) to include groups that were previously excluded. These changes often occur as the result of judicial decisions, usually by the US Supreme Court or by Congressional legislation not struck down as unconstitutional. It is important to note that the "Informal Amendment Process" doesn't actually change the Constitution, just its interpretation, which is in a constant state of flux due to evolving (or devolving) sociopolitical conditions.


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