The Constitution, Translated
Like all translations, this is an interpretation. Parts of the original Constitution that were changed by amendments have been updated to reflect the amendment, and parts that are outdated and no longer apply have been left out. Let me know if you spot an error or disagree with my interpretation—but be prepared to back your argument up with text!
We are writing this Constitution in order to create a united country that is fair, peaceful, secure, healthy, and free forever.
Article 1: The Legislative Branch
Section 1 - Congress
Laws will be written by Congress, which is made up of the House of Representatives and the Senate.
Section 2 - The House of Representatives
Representatives will be elected every other year by the voters of the state they represent.
Representatives must be at least 25, have been a citizen for at least 7 years, and live in the state they represent.
The number of Representatives a state gets is based on its population eligible voters. Each state must have at least one Representative, but no more than 1 for every 30,000 people. Congress can create a federal income tax on any income. Any taxes a state pays to the federal government will be proportional to that state’s population. There will be a census every 10 years. Congress will pass laws describing how to conduct the census.
When a Representative leaves office before their term ends, their state will elect a replacement to finish their term.
The House of Representatives chooses the Speaker of the House and other House officers. Only the House can impeachment a government official (accuse them of a high crime or misdemeanor with the intent of removing them from office).
Section 3 - The Senate
Every state gets 2 Senators. A Senate term lasts 6 years, and every Senator has 1 vote in the Senate. Senators are elected by the voters of the state they represent.
Senate terms will be staggered so that every 2 years, one third of the Senators’ terms expire. When a Senator leaves office before their term ends, their state will elect a replacement to finish their term. If state law permits, the governor can appoint a temporary replacement until the voters choose a new Senator to finish the term.
Senators must be at least 30, have been a citizen for at least 9 years, and live in the state they represent.
The Vice President is President of the Senate, but can only vote as a tiebreaker.
Senators get to choose a President pro tempore (who serves as President of the Senate when the Vice President isn’t there or has become the President), as well as other Senate officers.
When the House impeaches someone, the Senate conducts a trial to decide whether they are guilty. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court presides over this trial, and the Senators must be under oath or affirmation (a nonreligious oath). A conviction requires the votes of 2/3 of the Senators at the impeachment trial.
When the Senate convicts someone who has been impeached, that person is removed from office, and may not be allowed to hold public office again. The Senate can’t punish them beyond that, but the impeached person can still be tried for their crime in a court, which may punish them further.
Section 4 - Elections
Each state’s legislature decides when, where, and how its Senators and Representatives will be elected. Congress can change any of these decisions, except for where Senators are elected. The terms of members of Congress end (and their successors’ start) at noon on January 3rd.
Congress must meet at least once a year. This will happen at noon on January 3rd, unless they choose a different day.
Section 5 - Rules
Both houses of Congress are the judges of the results of their votes and the qualifications of their members. A quorum in either house (the amount of members who must be present in order to do business) is half of that house’s members. If less than half of a house’s members are present, those who are can either adjourn or make the other members show up (and punish them if they don’t).
Both houses can choose their own rules, procedures, and punishments for breaking the rules. A member of either house can be expelled by a 2/3 vote of that house.
Both houses of Congress must regularly publish a record of what they’ve done (except any parts that need to be kept secret). In either house, 1/5 of the members present can vote to record how every member of their house voted on any question in the record.
When Congress is in session, neither house can adjourn for more than 3 days or meet somewhere other than the Capitol, unless the other house agrees to it.
Section 6 - Payment
Members of Congress’ pay is set by Congress and paid by the Treasury. Unless they commit treason, a felony, or a breach of the peace, members of Congress cannot be arrested while at, going to, or leaving a session of Congress. Members of Congress cannot be questioned over something they said during a Congressional speech or debate outside of the Capitol.
No sitting member of Congress can be appointed to another position if that position was created or its pay was increased during the member’s term. Members of Congress are not allowed to hold another office at the same time. Any change in members of Congress’ salaries will not take effect until after the next Congressional election.
Section 7 - Bills, Laws, and the Veto
All tax laws start in the House of Representatives. The Senate can only modify tax bills via amendments.
When a bill passes both houses of Congress, the President can sign it into law. If the President vetoes it, it returns to the house it started in, along with an explanation of why the President didn’t sign it. That house will record in its public record why the President didn’t sign it, reconsider the bill, and can pass it again by a 2/3 vote. The bill and the President’s objections then move to the other house, where if it passes with a 2/3 vote as well, the veto is overridden and the bill becomes law. During veto override votes, how the members of each house voted must be recorded in that house’s public record. If a bill is neither signed nor vetoed within 10 days (Sundays don’t count) of being presented to the President, it becomes law—unless Congress is in recess.
The President can veto any Congressional action that both houses of Congress voted on, except decisions on when to meet or adjourn. Any veto can be overridden by a 2/3 vote in both houses of Congress.
Section 8 - Powers
It is Congress’ job to create and collect taxes to fund all parts of the federal government, including the military. All taxes created by Congress must be the same in every state. Congress can also:
Borrow money on behalf of the federal government
Regulate commerce between the states, and between the US and other countries (including Native American tribes)
Decide how foreigners can become citizens, and how bankruptcy is handled
Mint money, regulate the value of money, and decide what units of measurement the country uses
Punish people who counterfeit money
Establish a postal system
Give people copyrights for their inventions, discoveries, or art
Set up a system of federal courts below the Supreme Court
Enforce the law in international waters
Maintain the Army, budgeting money for it in 2-year increments
Maintain the Navy
Make rules to govern the military
Create a National Guard to fight any rebellion or invasion
Organize, arm, and govern the National Guard (it is up to the states to train the National Guard to the standards set by Congress, and to appoint National Guard officers)
Create laws to govern Washington, D.C. and military bases across the country
Make any laws necessary in order to fulfill the duties the Constitution lays out for the government
Section 9 - Restrictions
The right to challenge an arrest as illegal can only be suspended during a rebellion or invasion.
Laws that convict someone without a trial and laws that allow someone to be punished for breaking a law retroactively are not allowed.
Congress cannot tax the states in a way that is not proportionate to their population.
A state’s exports cannot be taxed.
Congress cannot favor one state’s ports over another’s. Ships from one state cannot be required to enter, leave, or pay fees in another state.
Money can only leave the Treasury when Congress has directed it to fund something specific. Congress must regularly report on the government’s revenue and spending.
The United States does not give titles of nobility. Members of the government are not allowed to receive money, gifts, political power, or titles from foreign governments.
Section 10 - Limits on the States
States are not allowed to make treaties; enter alliances; mint money; allow anything accept dollars, gold, and silver to be used as money; pass laws that convict someone without a trial, laws that allow someone to be punished for breaking a law retroactively, or laws that violate a contract; or grant titles of nobility.
States cannot create import or export taxes without Congress’ permission, unless the tax money is needed to comply with the state’s import/export inspection laws. Congress can change a state’s inspection laws, and any money from those taxes that is not used to fulfill the state’s inspection laws goes to the Treasury.
States cannot keep a military during peacetime, make deals with other states or countries, or fight war (unless they have been or are about to be invaded) without Congress’ permission.
Article 2: The Executive Branch
Section 1 - The President
Laws are enforced by the President. The President and Vice President serve a 4 year term together, which ends (and their successors’ terms start) at noon on January 20th. Nobody can be elected to more than 2 terms as President. If someone finishes more than 2 years of someone else’s term as President, they can only be elected to 1 full term as President.
Each state gets as many electors in the Electoral College as they have members of Congress. They can decide for themselves how their electors are chosen, but the electors can’t be government officials. Washington, D.C. gets as many electors in the Electoral College as it would if it were a state, but not more than the least populous state has. They work the same way as any other state’s electors. Congress can make laws to enforce this.
The electors will meet in their respective states, with each elector casting one vote for President and one vote for Vice President (they can’t both be from the same state as the elector). The electors of each state will make a list of how many votes each candidate for President and Vice President got, and sign and send that list to the Vice President, who will count all the electoral votes in front of Congress. Whichever Presidential candidate wins the majority (more than half) of the votes becomes President, and whichever Vice Presidential candidate wins the majority of the votes becomes Vice President. If there’s a tie for President, the House of Representatives votes on which of the top 3 candidates to make President. If no Presidential candidate wins a majority of the electoral votes, then the House of Representative votes on which of the top 5 to make President. When either of these happen, the House votes differently than normal: instead of each Representative getting 1 vote, each state’s delegation gets 1 vote, and Representatives from at least 2/3 of the states must be present. In order to win, a candidate must get a majority of the state delegations’ votes. If the House doesn’t choose a President by March 4th following the election, the Vice President becomes President. If none of the Vice Presidential candidates get a majority, the Senate votes on which of the top 2 to make Vice President. At least 2/3 of the Senate must vote, and the winner must get a majority of the votes.
Congress will decide when the states choose their electors and when the electors vote. The dates will be the same for every state.
The President and Vice President must be citizens, be at least 35, and have lived in the US for at least 14 years.
If the President dies or resigns, the Vice President becomes President. If the Vice President dies or resigns, the President nominates a new Vice President, who must be confirmed by a majority vote in both houses of Congress. If the President sends the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House a written notice that they cannot do their job, the Vice President becomes Acting President until the President sends the leaders of the Senate and House another written notice saying that they are able to resume their duties. If the President is incapacitated, the Vice President and the majority of the cabinet (or another group chosen by Congress) will send the leaders of the Senate and House a written notice that the President is unable to do their job, and the Vice President will become the Acting President. When the President regains the ability to do their job, they will send the leaders of the Senate and House a written notice that they are able to serve as President again, and resume being President—unless the Vice President and the majority of the cabinet (or another group chosen by Congress) write to the leaders of the Senate and House within 4 days saying that the President is actually still incapacitated. If that happens, Congress has 48 hours to meet and 21 days to decide by a 2/3 vote of both houses whether or not the President is able to serve as President. If they decide that the President is incapacitated, the Vice President continues to serve as Acting President.
The President will be paid regularly, but won’t get any compensation beside their salary. The President’s salary will not change during their term.
During their inauguration, the President must take this oath: “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
Section 2 - Powers
The President is Commander in Chief of the military. They can ask their cabinet for advice, and can grant pardons for crimes (that no one is being impeached for).
The President can make deals with other countries and appoint cabinet members, ambassadors, and federal judges if 2/3 of the Senate approve. Congress will decide whether the President, the courts, or the cabinet departments get to appoint any government officials not mentioned in the Constitution.
If a government position becomes empty while the Senate is in recess, the President chooses a temporary stand-in until the end of the Senate’s next session.
Section 3 - Duties
The President will give a regular State of the Union address and suggest laws to Congress. The President can convene Congress if necessary, or adjourn it if the two houses can’t decide when to adjourn. The President will also receive other countries’ ambassadors and officials, make sure the law is enforced as intended, and hire military officers and diplomats.
Section 4 - Impeachment
The President, Vice President, and all government officials will be removed from office if they are impeached by the House and convicted by the Senate of treason, bribery, or other high crimes or misdemeanors.
Article 3: The Judicial Branch
Section 1 - The Courts
The justice system is made of the Supreme Court and any lower federal courts that Congress creates. Federal judges serve for life (unless they commit a crime), and get a salary that will not be decreased while they are in office.
Section 2 - Jurisdiction
The federal courts have jurisdiction over all cases involving the Constitution; laws; ambassadors and public officials; and the Navy and maritime issues. They also have jurisdiction over all cases involving the United States, and cases between: multiple states, a state and the citizens of a different state, citizens of two different states, and a state or citizen and a foreign state or citizen. This does not include cases where a state is being sued by citizens of a different state or country.
The Supreme Court has jurisdiction over all cases that affect ambassadors or public officials and cases involving a state. Unless Congress says otherwise, court decisions can be appealed to the Supreme Court, which will decide whether the decision was correct/constitutional or incorrect/unconstitutional.
Trials for crimes (except impeachment trials) are decided by a jury and take place in the state where the crime was committed. If the crime did not take place in a state, Congress will decide where the trial happens.
Section 3 - Treason
Committing treason means taking up arms against the United States, or helping its enemies. Nobody can be convicted of treason without at least two witnesses to the same obvious act of treason or a public confession in court.
Congress decides the punishment for treason, but the punishment cannot affect the traitor’s descendants. If Congress confiscates a convicted traitor’s belongings, they must be given to the traitor’s descendants when the traitor dies.
Article 4: The States
Section 1 - State-to-State Respect
Each state must respect every other states’ actions, records, and court decisions. Congress can decide how states prove their actions, records, and court decisions.
Section 2 - State’s Citizens
The citizens of all states are equal and have the same rights.
If someone who has been charged with a crime in one state flees to another state, the governor of the state where the crime was committed can have the fugitive returned to that state from the state they fled to.
Section 3 - New States
Congress can add new states to the country. States can’t be created from the land of another state, or by two (or parts of two) states joining together, unless the legislatures of those states and Congress agree to it.
Congress controls all federal land. The Constitution cannot be interpreted to harm the country’s or a states’ claims.
Section 4 - Protection
Federal and state governments will be representative democracies. The government will protect the states from being invaded and from violence by their citizens.
Article 5: Amendments
2/3 of both houses of Congress or 2/3 of the states’ legislatures can propose an amendment to the Constitution. Congress will choose whether the amendment is ratified by either 3/4 of the states’ legislatures, or by special Ratification Conventions in 3/4 of the states. Amendments cannot take away a state’s representation in the Senate unless that state agrees.
Article 6: The Law of the Land
The Constitution and all federal laws and treaties are the law of the land. All judges are bound by them, and states cannot make laws that violate them (including in their state Constitutions).
Federal and state officials must swear an oath to uphold the Constitution. A religious test cannot be required to hold public office.
The Bill of Rights
The Bill of Rights places more restrictions on the government by giving the people rights that cannot be violated. This will help people have faith in the government as a force for good, and prevent the government from abusing the citizens.
1st Amendment - Free Expression
The US will not have an official religion or ban any religions. No law will limit free speech, the freedom of the press, the peoples’ right to gather and protest, or the peoples’ right to demand that the government address their problems.
2nd Amendment - Bearing Arms
Because it’s important for the US to have a strong and well-regulated militia, the people will be allowed to keep weapons.
3rd Amendment - Housing Soldiers
During peace, citizens do not have to let soldiers stay in their house. During war, Congress can decide if and when people have to let soldiers stay in their houses.
4th Amendment - Search & Seizure
The government cannot search or seize a person, their house, or their belongings without reason. All warrants must be written under oath, supported by probable cause, and describe specifically what will be searched or confiscated.
5th Amendment - Due Process
Nobody will be put on trial for a serious crime unless a grand jury has indicted them (except in the military during combat). People cannot be tried or punished more than once for the same crime, or forced to testify against themselves. People cannot lose their life, freedom, or property without due process of the law. The government can’t take people’s property and make it public without compensating them fairly.
6th Amendment - Fair Trials
In criminal trials, the defendant has a right to a speedy and public trial by a jury from the same area of the state when they committed their crime (Congress will decide how to divide these areas). A defendant has the right to know the charge and evidence against them, to speak to the witnesses against them, and to have a lawyer and witnesses to defend them.
7th Amendment - Civil Suits
In civil suits where the value of the thing being fought over is more than $20, the case will be decided by a jury. No other court can second-guess a fact established by a jury, unless Congress makes a law saying otherwise.
8th Amendment - Cruel & Unusual Punishment
Courts cannot impose unreasonable bail or fines, or punish people in a cruel or unusual way.
9th Amendment - Other Rights
People have other rights in addition to the ones listed here, and the Bill of Rights cannot be interpreted as denying or infringing on those other rights.
10th Amendment - Other Powers
Any powers not mentioned in the Constitution belong to the states and/or the people.
13th Amendment - Abolition
Slavery and forced labor are not allowed.
14th Amendment - Citizenship and Rebellion
Anyone born in the US or a US territory is a citizen of the United States and of the state they live in. States may not make laws that infringe on the rights of US citizens, or take away someone’s life, freedom, or property without due process. Every person within a state has a right to equal protection under that state’s laws.
Nobody who has rebelled or committed treason against the United States and has ever taken an oath of office can hold public office again. Congress can remove this rule by a 2/3 vote of both houses.
Debt incurred by government spending is legitimate public debt. Any debt incurred while trying to rebel against the United States is void, and will not be paid by the federal or any state government.
15th Amendment - Right to Vote
Nobody can be denied the right to vote because of their race.
19th Amendment - Women’s Suffrage
Nobody can be denied the right to vote because of their sex.
24th Amendment - Abolition of the Poll Tax
Citizens cannot be forced to pay to vote in a federal election.
26th Amendment - Voting Age
No one who is over 18 can be denied the right to vote because of their age.