Maine Constitution

From Ballotpedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Maine Constitution
Flag of Maine.png
The Maine Constitution is the fundamental governing document of the state of Maine.


The Maine Constitution consists of a preamble and ten articles.[1]

Maine's constitution was first adopted in 1820, making it the 23rd state in the Union. The constitution has been amended many times since 1820, and it has been re-codified every 10 years beginning in the late 19th century. By re-codifying it, the repealed portions have been deleted and the original structure has remained intact. This process has made it one of the shorter state constitutions.[2]


See also: Preambles to state constitutions

The text of the Preamble to the Maine Constitution states:

Objects of government. We the people of Maine, in order to establish justice, insure tranquility, provide for our mutual defense, promote our common welfare, and secure to ourselves and our posterity the blessings of liberty, acknowledging with grateful hearts the goodness of the Sovereign Ruler of the Universe in affording us an opportunity, so favorable to the design; and, imploring God's aid and direction in its accomplishment, do agree to form ourselves into a free and independent State, by the style and title of the State of Maine and do ordain and establish the following Constitution for the government of the same.[1]

Article I: Declaration of Rights

Plaque commemorating drafting of the constitution

Article I contains 24 sections, the longest of which is on religious freedom. The first section states:[1]

All people are born equally free and independent, and have certain natural, inherent and unalienable rights.[3]

Article II: Electors

Article II has five sections and describes who may vote for members of the state government.[1]

Article III: Distribution of Powers

Article III consists of two sections. It divides the state government into three distinct departments: the legislative, executive and judicial.[1]

Article IV: State legislature

Article IV is written in three distinct parts:

Altogether, Article IV establishes the Maine State Legislature.

Article V: Executive Power

This article is written in three parts:

Altogether, Article V describes the powers, election and duties of the state executive offices.

Article VI: Judicial Power

Article VI establishes and describes the powers of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court and other such courts as the Maine State Legislature establishes.

Article VII: Military

Article VII is concerned with the military and describes the state militia, known as the Maine National Guard.

Article VIII: Education and Home Rule

Article VIII consists of two parts, each with two sections.

Article X: Additional Provisions

Article X has seven sections and describes how the constitution can be amended.

Amendments to the Constitution

See also: List of amendments to the Maine Constitution

The Maine Constitution may be amended in two ways:

  • According to Section 4 of Article X, if the Maine House of Representatives and the Maine State Senate both vote by at least a two-thirds majority, a proposed amendment to the constitution can be placed on the statewide ballot on the Tuesday following the first Monday of November after the state legislature acts. Amendments proposed in this way become part of the constitution if they are approved by a simple majority vote of the state's electorate.

The Maine Constitution of 1819 was the first state constitution in the United States that only required one legislative proposal followed by a vote of the people in order to amend itself. All other state constitutions up to Maine's required two legislative actions.[4]

In 1818, Connecticut was the first state to allow the people to weigh in on a new amendment via a statewide vote; however, to amend the Connecticut Constitution, two legislative actions were still required--as had been the case with all previous state constitutions--prior to the vote of the people. The reason for two legislative actions was to test popular sentiment with reference to a proposed amendment, but the need for doing this was reduced when the proposed constitutional amendment was submitted to a direct vote of the people.

Since 1818, most states adopting new constitutions have followed either the Connecticut or Maine plans by providing for the proposal of amendments either by two successive legislatures or simply by one legislature, with the amendment becoming effective upon the subsequent approval of the people.

Judicial nullification

In 1997 and 2000, the Maine State Legislature referred to the ballot, both times unsuccessfully, attempts to have a portion of the Constitution repealed that the legislature deemed to probably be unconstitutional:

After the voters chose not to vote to remove the controversial provision from the constitution, the Disability Rights Center of Maine filed a lawsuit in federal court in Maine on behalf of three individuals who were under guardianship because of mental illness challenging the constitutionality of the relevant part of the Maine Constitution. In federal court, the provision in the constitution was found to violate both the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution and the Americans with Disabilities Act. The court determined in August 2001 that the constitutional provision that forbade people who were mentally ill and under guardianship from voting unfairly (and unconstitutionally) targeted "a subset of mentally ill citizens based on a stereotype rather than any actual, relevant incapacity."[5][6]


The Maine Constitution was approved by Congress on March 4, 1820, as part of the Missouri Compromise, since the Maine Constitution did not recognize slavery. Maine was previously the District of Maine in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Several referenda were held (1792, 1797, 1816, 1819) testing voter sentiment for separation from Massachusetts. The Maine Constitution was eventually written over a three-week period in 1819 by a convention of delegates during the statehood movement following the Revolutionary War and approved by voters the same year. The Maine Constitution was approved by all 210 delegates to the Maine constitutional convention, which was held during October 1819 in Portland, Maine. Maine was then accepted into the Union in 1820 as a the twenty-third state in the Union, with the 1819 constitution as its fundamental governing document.[5]

The Maine Constitution is regarded by some scholars as the forerunner of a type of constitution subsequently adopted by other states. Specifically, Maine was the first state constitution that allowed itself to be subsequently amended by the state legislature voting to put a proposed amendment to a popular statewide vote, and other states saw this as an attractive attribute for a state constitution. Ellis Paxson Oberholtzer wrote in 1900 noting, "A two-thirds vote of both houses of the legislature was required to pass the proposal but everything else was left to the people, a simple majority of the qualified voters who chose to express an opinion on the subject being competent to declare the popular will."[7]

See also

StateConstitutions Ballotpedia.jpg

External links

Suggest a link

Additional reading