Washington State Constitution

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Washington Constitution
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Articles
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Amendments
The Washington State Constitution is the basic governing document of the State of Washington.

Features

The Washington State Constitution describes the fundamental structure and function of the state's government. It consists of

Preamble

See also: Preambles to state constitutions

The preamble of the Washington State Constitution states:

We, the people of the State of Washington, grateful to the Supreme Ruler of the Universe for our liberties, do ordain this constitution.[1]

Article I

Article 1 of the Washington State Constitution is labeled "Declaration of Rights." It includes 35 sections and lays out a variety of fundamental citizen rights in the state, covering topics such as the rights of petition and assembly, freedom of speech, the rights of the accused and the rights of crime victims, religious freedom, habeas corpus, eminent domain, the right to bear arms and the right of recall.

Article II

Article II of the Washington State Constitution is labeled "Legislative Department." Article II details the workings of the legislative branch of Washington's state government and includes 44 sections.

Article III

Article III of the Washington State Constitution is labeled "The Executive." It has 25 sections which define the duties, rights and prerogatives of the office of the Governor of Washington and other statewide constitutional officers.

Article IV

Article IV of the Washington State Constitution is labeled "The Judiciary." It establishes the powers, rights and obligations of the state's courts and judges.

Article V

Article V of the Washington State Constitution is labeled "Impeachment" and describes the impeachment process.

Article VI

Article VI of the Washington State Constitution is labeled "Elections and Elective Rights." It includes sections 1-8 and 1A, for a total of nine sections and describes voter qualifications, who can be disqualified, residency requirements for voting in particular areas, the "privilege from arrest" enjoying under certain voting circumstances, the legislature's obligation to create a voter registration system and when elections are to be held.

Article VII

Article VII is entitled "Revenue and Taxation." According to The Washington State Constitution: A Reference Guide, Article VII was passed by the constitutional convention that led to the 1889 constitution "with little debate." Scholars Robert Utter and Hugh Spitzer go on to describe Article VII as "a mixture of original language mingled with sentences and phrases borrowed from many other states."[2]

Article VIII

Article VIII of the Washington State Constitution is labeled "State, County, and Municipal Indebtedness." It includes sections 1-11, for a total of 11 sections.

Article IX

Washington Territory voters approved a constitution on Nov. 5, 1878. State officially joined the Union on Nov. 11, 1889.
Photo credit: Washington Secretary of State's office

Article IX of the Washington State Constitution is labeled "Education." It includes sections 1-5 for a total of five sections. According to Utter and Spitzer (2002), the "paramount duty" language in Section 1 is some of the strongest language in any state constitution governing the duty of a state to guarantee the education "of all children residing within its borders."[2]

Article X

Article X of the Washington State Constitution is labeled "Militia." It includes sections 1-6 for a total of six sections. It defines "all able-bodied male citizens of this state between the ages of eighteen (18) and forty-five (45) years except such as are exempt by laws of the United States or by the laws of this state" as being "liable to military duty." It does allow room for conscientious objection, but only during times of peace and after making a payment for their exemption: "No person or persons, having conscientious scruples against bearing arms, shall be compelled to do militia duty in time of peace: Provided, such person or persons shall pay an equivalent for such exemption."[1]

Article XI

Article XI of the Washington State Constitution is labeled "County, City, And Township Organization." It includes sections 1-16 for a total of 16 sections.

Article XII

Article XII of the Washington State Constitution is labeled "Corporations other than Municipal." It includes sections 1-22, for a total of 22 sections.

Article XIII

Article XIII is labeled "State Institutions." The state institutions it addresses are educational, reformatory and penal institutions.

Article XIV

Article XIV of the Washington State Constitution is labeled "Seat of Government." It includes sections 1-3, for a total of three sections. It established that the location of the seat of government cannot be determined by the Washington State Legislature but instead, must be determined by a statewide vote of the people. Once the initial decision about where to locate the seat of government was made, this Article says that it can only be changed in the future by a 2/3rds supermajority vote, except in the case of an emergency as defined in Section 42 of Article II.[1]

Article XV

Article XV of the Washington State Constitution is labeled "Harbors and Tide Waters." It includes sections 1-3, for a total of three sections.

Article XVI

Article XVI of the Washington State Constitution is labeled "School and Granted Lands." It includes sections 1-6, for a total of six sections.

Article XVII

Article XVII of the Washington State Constitution is labeled "Tide Lands." It includes sections 1 and 2, for a total of two sections. In this article, the State of Washington "asserts its ownership to the beds and shores of all navigable waters in the state up to and including the line of ordinary high tide, in waters where the tide ebbs and flows, and up to and including the line of ordinary high water within the banks of all navigable rivers and lakes."[1]

Official Seal of the State of Washington

Article XVIII

Article XVIII of the Washington State Constitution is labeled "State Seal." It only has one section.

Article XIX

Article XIX of the Washington State Constitution is labeled "Exemptions." It has only one section and that short section states, "The legislature shall protect by law from forced sale a certain portion of the homestead and other property of all heads of families."[1]

Article XX

Article XX of the Washington State Constitution is labeled "Public Health and Vital Statistics." It has two sections.

Article XXI

Article XXI of the Washington State Constitution is labeled "Water and Water Rights." It has only one section.

Article XXII

Article XXII of the Washington State Constitution is labeled "Legislative Apportionment." It has two sections.

Article XXIII

Article XXIII of the Washington State Constitution is labeled "Amendments." It includes sections 1-3, for a total of three sections. Its three sections describe the process of amending the state constitution through legislatively-referred constitutional amendments and the process of bringing together a state constitutional convention.

Article XXIV

Article XXIV of the Washington State Constitution is labeled "Boundaries." It has only one section.

Boundaries of the State of Washington, established by Article XXIV

Article XXV

Article XXV of the Washington State Constitution is labeled "Jurisdiction." It only has one section and that section describes how the federal government can have political jurisdiction over tracts of land that lay within the territorial boundaries of the State of Washington.

Article XXVI

Article XXVI of the Washington State Constitution is labeled "Compact with the United States." It is not subdivided into sections as most articles are. It details the compact made between the State of Washington and the U.S. Government. It begins with the observation, "The following ordinance shall be irrevocable without the consent of the United States and the people of this state."[1]

Article XXVII

Article XXVII of the Washington State Constitution is labeled "Schedule." It includes sections 1-19 for a total of 19 sections, each of which lays out various details of the transaction as the State of Washington transformed from a territory under the control of the U.S. federal government, to being its own state.

Article XXVIII

Article XXVIII of the Washington State Constitution is labeled "Compensation of State Officers." It has only one section.

Article XXIX

Article XXIX of the Washington State Constitution is labeled "Investments of Public Pension and Retirement Funds." It has only one section and details how public pension and retirement funds may be invested.

Article XXX

Article XXX of the Washington State Constitution is labeled "Compensation of Public Officers." It has only one section.

Article XXXI

Article XXXI of the Washington State Constitution is labeled "Sex Equality - Rights and Responsibilities." It includes sections 1 and 2, for a total of two sections.

Article XXXII

Article XXXII of the Washington State Constitution is labeled "Special Revenue Financing." It only has one section.

Amending the constitution

See also: Article XXIII, Washington State Constitution, Laws governing ballot measures in Washington and List of amendments to the Washington State Constitution

The Washington State Constitution can be amended through two routes:

1. A constitutional convention. A convention can be called if:

  • Two-thirds of the members elected to each branch of the legislature put a question before the state's voters asking if the state's voters wish for a convention.
  • If a simple majority of voter's say "yes," then the state legislature must call a convention.

2. Either chamber of the Washington State Legislature can initiate an amendment to the state's constitution. Each house (the Washington State Senate and the Washington House of Representatives) must approve the proposal, or a version of it, by a 2/3 vote. If this happens, the proposed legislatively-referred constitutional amendment goes on a statewide ballot at the next general election in the state. If it is approved by a simple majority, it becomes part of the constitution.[3]

History

Washington has had two constitutions: one in 1878 and the current one, which was ratified by the state's voters on October 1, 1889.[3]

In 1876, citizens of the territory voted to apply for statehood. In 1877, Orange Jacobs, Washington’s Delegate to Congress, requested an enabling act that would allow Washington to become a state as soon as a state constitution was drafted and ratified by the voters. In 1878, fifteen delegates met in Walla Walla, Washington for Washington’s first Constitutional Convention. In November 1878, voters overwhelmingly approved the proposed constitution. The new “Constitution of the State of Washington” was sent to Congress along with a memorial requesting Statehood for Washington. Even though Washington’s representatives heavily lobbied for admission, the U.S. Congress failed to act on the proposed Constitution. Still, the 1878 Constitution is an important historical document that shows the political thinking of the time. It was used extensively during the drafting of Washington State’s 1889 Constitution. [3]

The second Constitutional Convention met in Olympia, Washington from July 4 through August 22, 1889. Seventy-five delegates helped draft the constitution. The people of Washington ratified the 1889 constitution on October 1, 1889. President Harrison issued a proclamation admitting Washington to the Union on November 11, 1889.[3]

See also

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External links

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References