Constitutional revision

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A constitutional revision is a holistic and fundamental change to a state constitution, in contrast to a constitutional amendment, which is a piecemeal change to part of a constitution.

Whether a particular change to a constitution is a revision, or an amendment, is a gray area that has been the subject of litigation.

After Proposition 8 was approved in California in 2008, one of two main lines of reasoning in the various lawsuits filed against it is that it amounted to a revision of the California Constitution, rather than an amendment. Article 18 of the California Constitution says that voters can initiate an amendment. The legal claim was that Proposition 8 amounted to a revision, and revisions can't be accomplished through the ballot initiative process. (The California Supreme Court ruled that Prop 8 was an amendment, not a revision.)

Relevant legal cases

In these cases, the initiatives in question were found to be amendments, not unconstitutional revisions.

In McFadden in 1948, the California Supreme Court struck down an initiative as an unconstitutional revision on the grounds that it added 21,000 words to what was then a 55,000-word Constitution. The 1948 court said the initiative was 'revisory rather than amendatory in nature,' because of the 'far reaching and multifarious substance of the measure ...; (p. 332) which dealt with such varied and diverse subjects as retirement pensions, gambling, taxes, oleomargarine, healing arts, civic centers, senate reapportionment, fish and game, and surface mining. We noted that the proposal would have repealed or substantially altered at least 15 of the 25 articles which then comprised the Constitution."[2]