Ratification Rescission

“We’re not really at 37 states because some states revoked their ratifications.”

  • Article V of the Constitution authorizes states to ratify amendments but does not give states the power to rescind their ratification. 
  • Allowing ratification while prohibiting a change of heart makes practical sense too.  If states were allowed to rescind as well as ratify, there would be no point in time when we could safely say that three-fourths of the states ratified the amendment, making it part of the Constitution.  The uncertainty would make it impossible to know what is or is not in the Constitution.
  • Three amendments to the Constitution were added while ignoring rescissions. All states that ratified, including those that had attempted to rescind a ratification, were included in the count that determined the amendment was, indeed, valid as part of the Constitution:
    • Fourteenth Amendment: Ohio and New Jersey attempted to rescind their ratification, their rescission was ignored, the Fourteenth Amendment was added to the Constitution
    • Fifteenth Amendment: New York attempted to rescind; Georgia ratified; both were considered among the ratifying states (NY’s rescission was ignored)
    • Nineteenth Amendment: Tennessee attempted to rescind but its rescission was ignored and the Nineteenth Amendment was added to the Constitution