Rhode Island Constitution

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Rhode Island Constitution
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The Rhode Island Constitution is the state constitution of Rhode Island. It describes the structure and function of the government of Rhode Island. The constitution was ratified in November 1842, and become effective in May of 1843. Prior to this time, the state was governed by the original royal charter granted in 1663.


The Rhode Island Constitution consists of a preamble followed by 15 articles.

  1. Declaration of Certain Constitutional Rights and Principles
  2. Suffrage
  3. Of Qualification for Office
  4. Of Elections and Campaign Finance
  5. Of the Distribution of Powers
  6. Of the Legislative Power
  7. Of the House of Representatives
  8. Of the Senate
  9. Of the Executive Power
  10. Of the Judicial Power
  11. Of Impeachments
  12. Of Education
  13. Home Rule for Cities and Towns
  14. Constitutional Amendments and Revision
  15. General Transition

Amending the constitution

Main article: Article XIV, Rhode Island Constitution

There are two paths by which the Rhode Island Constitution can be changed, the legislatively-referred constitutional amendment and the constitutional convention.

Section 1 of Article 14 explains how the Rhode Island General Assembly can initiate the process of amendment:

  • Amendments may be proposed "by a roll call vote of a majority of the members elected to each house."
  • The proposed amendment "shall be published in such manner as the general assembly shall direct."
  • Votes on amendments take place only at general elections.
  • If a simple majority of voters approve the amendment, it goes into the constitution.

Section 2 of Article 14 is about constitutional conventions:

  • The question, "Shall there be a convention to amend or revise the constitution?", can go on the ballot if approved by a simple majority of the members of both houses of the state's general assembly.
  • If the question hasn't appeared on the ballot at any time in a given ten-year period, the Rhode Island Secretary of State must place it on the ballot as an automatic ballot referral.
  • If the state's voters by a simple majority vote to hold a convention, then a convention shall be held.

Rhode Island has a unique provision about elections on the constitutional convention question. It is, "Prior to a vote by the qualified electors on the holding of a convention, the general assembly, or the governor if the general assembly fails to act, shall provide for a bi-partisan preparatory commission to assemble information on constitutional questions for the electors." This means that before the vote is held, a preparatory commission must be created to do some groundwork for a convention, if the state's voters choose to hold one.

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