Chapter Summary

State constitutions provide incredibly detailed and unique blueprints for operating state governments. Yet it is the U.S. Constitution, not individual state constitutions that the electorate is most familiar with. A state constitution is the political document that provides an institutionalized legacy of a state's political culture. As such, it is important for understanding the structure of a state's government and the policymaking process within that state.

As notions of what constitutes good government change within a state, its citizens and government officials also may want to change the framework for government set forth in their state constitution. Each state provides for both formal and informal methods for proposing changes to its constitution. These changes can affect the distribution of power within government and the role citizens play in the policymaking process, as well as the basic rights afforded to citizens. Particularly for states with the means for direct democracy, the opportunity to change the basic structure of government and determine the rights of citizens is readily available. And, as recent trends indicate, such means increasingly are being utilized.