Happy Nevada Day!
That means absolutely nothing to people who don’t live here, so I’ll give you a little background:
October 31, 1864 was when Nevada was admitted to the Union. Yes, this was during the Civil War and the timing is the reason tourists are confused when they see the “Battle Born” motto. Or maybe that was just me who was confused when I visited and eventually moved here. Maybe everyone else who gets off the plane reads up on Nevada history when they book their trip.
“Battle Born” is on the state flag and while “All for Our Country,” is the official state motto, “Battle Born” resonated with Nevadans and continues to be a prominent slogan throughout the state, typifying the rebellious, unorthodox spirt of many residents.
Anyhoo, Nevada Day is currently celebrated on the last Friday of October and the kids get school off, although I’ve been told by native Las Vegans that it was much cooler when they grew up because Nevada Day was observed on the actual day, the 31st, and getting out of school on Halloween was boss.
So all this Nevada Day stuff, plus the POTUS thinking he can change the US Constitution with an executive order got me thinking. First, I was thankful for civics class, so I understood that changing the US Constitution is a complex legal process, not something done on an orange whim. And then I was just thinking about constitutions cuz I can be a bit of a nerd.
A constitution is a living document, meaning it’s dynamic, so it can be changed and adjusted. The US Constitution contains 4,543 words, including the signatures and 7,591 including amendments.
The US Constitution is difficult to amend—it requires a supermajority TWICE. Article 5 of the US Constitution provides that an amendment can be proposed by a 2/3 majority in both the House and Senate OR by a convention after a request from 2/3 of the states. If an amendment makes it through either of those, the next step is ratification by ¾ of the states. Nothing like the simple majority needed in each house to pass ordinary legislation.
Of the more than 200 constitutions in force around the world, the state of Alabama holds the distinction of having the most words in its state constitution, coming in with 369,129 words. And there’s a good chance that’s amended since the California Constitution Center sourced this information in June of 2017. For reference, the country of India is second on this list with 146,385 words. Nevada doesn’t even crack the Top 25 on the longest constitution list—our California friends are at number eight on the list with nearly 75,000 words in their state constitution and our neighbors to the north, Oregon, are at number 25 with just over 49,000 words.
Nevada’s Constitution was created in Carson City in July of 1864 and approved by public vote that September. It contained provisions that included a prohibition on slavery, declared public lands to be the property of the US government, and ensured religious freedom for our residents—a separation of church and State is textually provided in our constitution. That’s not the case in every state.
When Nevada joined the Union in 1864, the entire state constitution was sent by telegraph to Washington, D.C., on October 26 and 27, two weeks before the November 7, 1864 presidential election. The telegraph was necessary as officials feared it may not arrive on time if sent by train.
The transmission took two days; it consisted of 16,543 words and cost $4,303.27 (adjusted to 2018 dollars, that’s over $65,000) to send. It was, at the time, the longest telegraph transmission ever made, a record it held for seventeen years, until a copy of the 118,000-word English Standard Version of the New Testament was sent by telegraph on May 22, 1881.
If you were to convert a text only document to a PFD file and attach it to a Gmail message this afternoon, you’d only use about 375 KB of your 25 MB attachment limit to instantly send your file.
Ain’t technology grand?
Currently, the Nevada State Constitution is just over 47,000 words and there are several questions on the ballot this election cycle (EARLY VOTING IS HAPPENING TODAY) that could change that word count. These measures vary from crime victims’ rights to energy market regulations.
State constitutions are generally easier to amend than our federal constitution—all state constitutions are longer than the US Constitution. But is a longer constitution is a better one? I wouldn’t say “War and Peace” is better than “East of Eden” because it’s twice the length.
Should a constitution be the solid foundation for governance, not easily moved and providing guidance, or should it be differed more to the populace to alter to better serve their changing world?
The dogs went to daycare dressed as canine canvassers. Joey was “Woof the Vote!” and Vonny was “Paws to the Polls!” I did not ask for their thoughts on amending constitutions. :)