Difference between revisions of "South Carolina Constitution"

From Ballotpedia
Jump to: navigation, search
(Unusual provisions: removed content without sources)
m (Added date to AIT)
Line 1: Line 1:
{{SCConstitution}}{{tnr}}The '''South Carolina Constitution''' is the governing document of [[South Carolina]]. It describes the structure and function of the state's government. The current state constitution was adopted in 1895. South Carolina has had six other constitutions, which were adopted in 1776, 1778, 1790, 1861, 1865 and 1868.
{{cons update|Month=June 2012}}{{SCConstitution}}{{tnr}}The '''South Carolina Constitution''' is the governing document of [[South Carolina]]. It describes the structure and function of the state's government. The current state constitution was adopted in 1895. South Carolina has had six other constitutions, which were adopted in 1776, 1778, 1790, 1861, 1865 and 1868.
Line 98: Line 98:
{{State constitutions}}
{{State constitutions}}
{{South Carolina}}
{{South Carolina}}
{{cons update}}

Revision as of 23:30, 1 January 2014

StateConstitutions Ballotpedia.jpg This Constitution article needs to be updated.

South Carolina Constitution
Flag of South Carolina.png
The South Carolina Constitution is the governing document of South Carolina. It describes the structure and function of the state's government. The current state constitution was adopted in 1895. South Carolina has had six other constitutions, which were adopted in 1776, 1778, 1790, 1861, 1865 and 1868.


Unhappy with post-Civil War changes written into the 1868 state constitution, Gov. Ben Tillman called for a convention that passed the 1895 constitution.

The 1868 constitution was modeled after that of Ohio, according to a 1977 article written by Clemson political scientist Harold E. Albert.[1] "It has been described as one of the most progressive, most democratic constitutions South Carolina ever had," Albert wrote. "Certainly this was true as far as counties and municipalities were concerned. Local governments were granted power to govern."

This disappeared with the 1895 constitution, according to Albert. "The 1895 constitution changed this drastically and made local governments virtually wards of the state. Local governments, and especially county government, became almost totally a function of the General Assembly, and remained so until the reapportionment decisions of the 1960s began to force changes in the legislatures composition which foreshadowed greater home rule for local governments."


Among other things, the 1895 constitution sought to keep blacks from casting ballots though complicated voting procedures, poll taxes and literacy tests, according to a Dec. 14, 2001, article by The Associated Press.

Tillman helped craft the 1895 state Constitution to make it unlikely that a black person would become South Carolina's chief executive.[2] If by chance a black person did become governor, they would be ineffective because Tillman and others had stripped the position of virtually all power and gave it to the Legislature.[3]

The constitution also banned interracial marriages, including a section that read: "The marriage of a white person with a Negro or mulatto, or person who shall have one-eighth or more of Negro blood, shall be unlawful and void." That provision wasn't deleted until 1999, according to an article by the Charleston Post & Courier in February 1999.

The 1895 constitution mandated state control of alcohol traffic.[4]

It also provided for each county to elect one senator for a four-year term. The election of senators was staggered so that half of the state Senate was elected every two years. After the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1964 for the case Reynolds v. Sims, the state Senate was reapportioned in 1966 as a temporary measure into 27 districts with 50 members for two-year terms. In 1967, the state Senate was again reapportioned, this time into 20 districts with 46 members for four-year terms. The number of districts was reduced to 16 in 1972 and in 1984, they were eliminated with the creation of single-member districts.

Conversely, the constitution proved a landmark in education in South Carolina. It decentralized education, providing for the local election of a county superintendent of schools and a county board of education charged with conducting examinations for the teachers it hired, the Augusta Chronicle reported in April 1999. The county board also was empowered to draw school districts no smaller than nine square miles and no larger than 49. However, its provisions did not always result in equal education for black students, the Chronicle added.


John L.S. Simpkins, an associate professor at the Charleston School of Law, asserts that the S.C. General Assembly has "outsized influence" in the state's governmental structure due to its sweeping constitutional authority. When one considers that key decisions such as judicial merit selection are made by the legislative body, it means that there is no balance of powers in South Carolina. "The General Assembly reigns supreme because that is the way the constitution intends it to be," Simpkins said.[5]


The South Carolina Constitution consists of a preamble followed by 17 sections.

  1. Declaration of Rights
  2. Right of Suffrage
  3. Legislative Department
  4. Executive Department
  5. Judicial Department
  6. Officers
  7. Counties and County Government
  8. Local Government
  9. Alcohol, Liquor and Beverages
  10. Corporations
  11. Finance, Taxation and Bonded Debt
  12. Public Education
  13. Functions of Government
  14. Militia
  15. Eminent Domain
  16. Impeachment
  17. Amendment and Revision of the Constitution
  18. Miscellaneous Matters

Religious test

Two sections of the South Carolina Constitution effectively establish a religious test. This may be in conflict with Article Six of the United States Constitution which bans such qualifications when it states, "no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States." These sections are:

  • Section 2 of Article VI says "No person who denies the existence of the Supreme Being shall hold any office under this Constitution.'
  • Section 4 of Article XVII says, "No person who denies the existence of a Supreme Being shall hold any office under this Constitution."

The Tennessee State Constitution contains this clause in very similar wording in Section 2 of Article 9.

Amending the constitution

See also: Article XVI, South Carolina Constitution, Amending state constitutions

There are two paths to amending the South Carolina Constitution: legislatively-referred constitutional amendments and constitutional conventions.

The rules governing legislatively-referred constitutional amendments are:

  • Amendments can be proposed in either chamber of the South Carolina State Legislature.
  • If "two-thirds of the members elected to each House" vote in favor, the amendment goes on the next general election ballot.
  • If a simple majority of those voting on the amendment approve it, the amendment then goes back to the state legislature.
  • "A majority of each branch of the next General Assembly, after the election and before another" must ratify the amendment.
  • If there is more than one proposed amendment on a ballot, the amendments must be separated so voters can vote on them separately.

The rules governing constitutional conventions are:

  • "Two-thirds of the members elected to each branch of the General Assembly" must vote in favor of putting a question about whether to hold a convention on a statewide ballot.
  • A simple majority vote of the state's electors is sufficient to bring about a convention.
  • "...such Convention shall consist of a number of members equal to that of the most numerous branch of the General Assembly."

Unusual provisions

  • Article IV, Section 2 (Qualifications of Governor) states the following: "No person shall be eligible to the office of Governor who denies the existence of the Supreme Being." This provision isn't enforced in modern times as the current precedent holds that the First Amendment's Establishment Clause is binding on the states per the 14th Amendment's liberty clause.
  • A constitutional amendment must be approved by two-thirds of each house of the legislature, then it must be approved by the people in an election, and then ratified by a majority of each house of the legislature. If the legislature fails to ratify then the amendment does not take effect, even though it has been approved by the people. See S.C. Const. art. XVI, s. 1.
  • Article XVII, Section 3 of the Constitution prohibited divorce for any reason. On April 15, 1949, it was revised to permit divorce, but only for certain reasons. It is believed that South Carolina is the only state in which the grounds for divorce are written into the constitution. The legislature is thus prohibited from creating additional grounds for divorce except by constitutional amendment.


External links