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Contents of State Constitutions

The general nature of state constitutions is based upon the type of powers that state governments possess and exercise. According to the Tenth Amendment to the federal Constitution, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

The contents of most of the state constitutions can be summarized as follows:


 A State constitution usually opens with a preamble, which is a brief foreword setting forth the presumed reasons for which the constitution was drafted and adopted.

 Protections o f rights

 Every State constitution possesses a “bill of rights” or “declaration of rights.” The State bills and declarations provide about the same guarantees against State governments as the federal Bill of Rights provides against federal authorities .  They protect such political rights as the freedom of religion, freedom of speech and the press, and freedom of assembly . State constitutions also assure a number of protections to persons charged with a crime, such as a guarantee of a speedy and public trial before an impartial jury, a ban on ex post facto laws, and a prohibition on cruel and unusual punishments. Finally, State constitutions guarantee property rights by insisting on due compensation in the exercise of eminent domain and by forbidding that any person be deprived of property without due process of law .

 Suffrage and elections

 State constitutions have considerable portions dealing with the suffrage and elections. They specify the various qualifications for the electorate, including such matters as age, residence, and citizenship. They also arrange for all elections, set the dates for particular elections and establish the local administrative machinery for the balloting.

Inside Contents of State Constitutions