Washington State Constitution

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Washington Constitution
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The Washington State Constitution is the state constitution of the State of Washington. It is the document that describes the fundamental structure and function of the state's government. Washington has had two constitutions: one in 1878 and the current one, which was ratified by the state's voters on October 1, 1889.[1]



See also: Preambles to state constitutions

The preamble of the Washington State Constitution is:

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

Article I

Article I, Washington State Constitution

Article I is labeled Declaration of Rights.It includes 35 sections and has been amended seven times since the current version of the Washington State Constitution was ratified on October 1, 1889.

Article I 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, Washington State Constitution

Article II details the workings of the legislative branch of Washington's state government. The Article includes 44 sections and has been amended 19 times since 1889, most recently in 2003.

Article III

Article III, Washington State Constitution

Article III is labeled The Executive. It has 25 sections which define the duties, rights and perogatives of the office of the Governor of Washington, and other statewide constitutional officers. Article III has been amended three times since the current State of Washington Constitution was adopted in 1889:

Article IV

Article IV, Washington State Constitution

Article IV defines the role and power of Washington's courts and judges. It is labeled "The Judiciary." Article IV has been amended 14 times. The first amendment to the Article was enacted in 1952, when it was decided that judges must retire at the age of 75. The most recent amendment was enacted in 2005, permitting district and municipal court judges to serve on the state's Commission on Judicial Conduct.

Article V

Article V describes the impeachment process.

Article V, Washington State Constitution

Article VI

Article VI, Washington State Constitution

Article VI is labeled Elections and Elective Rights. It includes sections 1-8 and 1A, for a total of nine sections. Article VI 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 VI has been amended five times, the first time in 1896 and most recently in 1988.

Article VII

Article VII, Washington State Constitution

Article VII is labeled "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 VII has been amended 16 times, the first time in 1900 and most recently in 2007.

Article VIII

Article VIII, Washington State Constitution

Article VIII is labeled State, County and Municipal Indebtedness. It includes sections 1-11. Article VIII has been amended 12 times, the first time in 1922 and most recently in 1999.

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, Washington State Constitution

Article IX lays out the education system for the State of Washington. It has five sections, and has been amended once, in 1966, when the Common School Construction Fund Amendment was enacted.

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, Washington State Constitution

Article X concerns the state's militia. 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."

Article XI

Article XI, Washington State Constitution

Article XI describes the organization of the subsections of the state. It is labeled County, City, And Township Organization. It includes sections 1-16 for a total of 16 sections. Article XI has been amended 8 times, the first time in 1923 and most recently in 1972.

Article XII

Article XII, Washington State Constitution

Article XII describes the powers and limitations of private corporations and is labelled Corporations other than Municipal. It includes sections 1-22, for a total of 22 sections. Article XII has been amended three times, the first time in 1940 and most recently in 1977.

Article XIII

Article XII, Washington State Constitution

Article XIII is labeled State Institutions. The state institutions it addresses are educational, reformatory and penal institutions. It has been amended once, in 1988.

Article XIV

Article XIV, Washington State Constitution

Article XIV is labeled Seat of Government. 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.

Article XV

Article XV, Washington State Constitution

Article XV is labeled Harbors and Tide Waters. It has been amended once, in 1932.

Article XVI

Article XVI, Washington State Constitution

Article XVI summarizes what can be done with school lands and those granted by the state. It is labeled School and Granted Lands. The first amendment ever made to the Washington State Constitution was made to this Article, in 1894.

Article XVII

Article XVII, Washington State Constitution

Article XVII deals with tide lands. In it, 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."

Official Seal of the State of Washington

Article XVIII

Article XVIII, Washington State Constitution

Article XVIII establishes and describes the Official Seal of the State of Washington.

Article XIX

Article XIX, Washington State Constitution

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

Article XX

Article XX, Washington State Constitution

Article XX concerns the public health. It includes only two short sections, and they say:

  • Section 1: "There shall be established by law a state board of health and a bureau of vital statistics in connection therewith, with such powers as the legislature may direct."
  • Section 2: "The legislature shall enact laws to regulate the practice of medicine and surgery, and the sale of drugs and medicines."

Article XXI

Article XXI, Washington State Constitution

Article XXI is labeled Water and Water Rights. It consists of one section, and that one section is just one sentence:

  • "The use of the waters of this state for irrigation, mining and manufacturing purposes shall be deemed a public use."

Article XXII

Article XXII, Washington State Constitution

Article XXII is labeled Legislative Apportionment. It has two sections and has never been amended.

Article XXIII

Article XXIII, Washington State Constitution

Article XXIII describes the process for amending the Washington State Constitution. 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 XXIII has been amended one time, in 1962.

Article XXIV

Boundaries of the State of Washington, established by Article XXIV
Article XXIV, Washington State Constitution

Article XXIV establishes the boundaries of the State of Washington. It has only section and has been amended once.

Article XXV

Article XXV, Washington State Constitution

Article XXV is 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, Washington State Constitution

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

The first part of the compact relates to the freedom of religion, with the strong statement, "That perfect toleration of religious sentiment shall be secured and that no inhabitant of this state shall ever be molested in person or property on account of his or her mode of religious worship." No other fundamental rights are discussed in Article XXVI.

The second part of the compact relates to the ownership of Indian, or tribal, lands that lie with the territorial boundaries of the state, and clarifies that these lands to not belong to the State of Washington.

The third part briefly says, "The debts and liabilities of the Territory of Washington and payment of the same are hereby assumed by this state", while the fourth and last part addresses itself to keeping public schools free from religious dominance by saying, "Provision shall be made for the establishment and maintenance of systems of public schools free from sectarian control which shall be open to all the children of said state."

Article XXVII

Article XXVII, Washington State Constitution

Article XXVII assures that no inconveniences shall arise from Washington becoming a state. It is labeled Schedule and has 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, Washington State Constitution

Article XXVIII is labeled Compensation of State Officers. It has one section, and that section has been amended twice:

Article XXIX

Article XXIX, Washington State Constitution

Article XXIX details how public pension and retirement funds may be invested. It is labeled Investments of Public Pension and Retirement Funds., and has been amended three times, most recently in 2000:

Article XXX

Article XXX, Washington State Constitution

Article XXX is labeled Compensation of Public Officers. It has only one section.

Article VI has been amended one time, in 1968.

Article XXXI

Article XXXI, Washington State Constitution

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

Article XXXI has been amended one time, in 1972.

Article XXXII

Article XXXII, Washington State Constitution

Article XXXII is labeled Special Revenue Financing. It only has one section.

Article XXXII was added to the state's constitution in 1981, with the enactment of House Joint Resolution 7.


External links


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