Is It time to update the NH Constitution?

Article by Anna Brown, Citizens Count

Every year in the New Hampshire Legislature there are about a dozen proposals to amend the state’s constitution. That may seem like a lot of changes to the basic rights and structure of government in our state, but some of America’s founding fathers believed a constitution should get regular updates.  In honor of Constitution Day, here’s a look at constitutional changes in the Granite State.

How to amend the Constitution

There are two ways to change the New Hampshire Constitution.

First, a legislator can propose a constitutional amendment.  If that proposal passes the House and Senate with a three-fifths majority (60%), the amendment is placed on the ballot in the next statewide election.  If two-thirds (67%) of voters support the amendment, the Constitution gets the update.

Voters may remember approving two constitutional amendments this way in 2018: Article 2-b, creating right of privacy, and a change to Article 8 giving taxpayers standing to sue the government.

The House and Senate can also vote to propose a constitutional convention, which is basically a big meeting to draft and vote on many constitutional changes at once.  Voters elect delegates to the convention, similar to the process for electing state representatives.  If three-fifths of the delegates at the convention approve a constitutional change, that amendment goes back to the voters again.  Two-thirds of voters must support any amendment to alter the Constitution.

This is somewhat similar to the process to amend the U.S. Constitution.  U.S. Representatives and Senators can propose an amendment. If it passes by a two-thirds majority, the amendment then goes to the states.  Three-quarters of state legislatures must approve the amendment to make a constitutional change.  

Alternatively, two-thirds of state legislatures can petition the U.S. Congress to trigger a new federal constitutional convention.  Once again, three-quarters of states must approve any constitutional changes that come out of the convention.

How often should constitutions change?

Many people have the impression that the U.S. and New Hampshire constitutions are supposed to be fixed, sacred documents, only changed if there is an extreme need. This is true to an extent.  These documents set out the principles, values, and rights at the foundation of our state and nation.  It would be chaos if legislators had free reign to change rights or reorganize government at will.

However, many founding fathers envisioned constitutions as constantly evolving.  Thomas Jefferson once wrote, “Every constitution then, and every law, naturally expires at the end of 19 years. If it be enforced longer, it is an act of force, and not of right.”

The drafters of New Hampshire’s Constitution were of a similar mindset. The New Hampshire Constitution requires the Secretary of State to put a constitutional convention on the ballot every 10 years.  Based on that schedule, the 2022 general election ballot will include the question, “Shall there be a convention to amend or revise the Constitution?”

Constitutional amendments likely to make a comeback

It’s been decades since New Hampshire voters approved a constitutional convention, but as noted at the start of this article, legislators still vote on constitutional amendments every year.  There are some popular amendments that have come up several times, such as:

  • A constitutional ban on an income or sales tax (e.g. CACR 1 and CACR 2 in 2021)
  • The creation of an independent redistricting commission (e.g. CACR 4 in 2021)
  • A change to the compensation of legislators (e.g. CACR 2 in 2019)
  • Raising or eliminating the mandatory retirement age of 70 for judges (e.g. CACR 6 and CACR 12 in 2021)
  • Allowing some 17-year-old Granite Staters to vote in primary elections (e.g. CACR 5 in 2019)

All of these proposals are likely to make a reappearance in 2022 or 2023.

Given current political debates, it also seems likely there will be future constitutional amendment proposals related to medical decisions, focused on either reproductive health or vaccination.

Citizens Count tracks and summarizes every bill that makes its way through the New Hampshire Legislature, including constitutional amendments.  Visit citizenscount.org/bills to browse legislation.  Every proposed constitutional amendment is numbered with the prefix “CACR,” which stands for “Constitutional Amendment Concurrent Resolution.”

Citizens Count is a nonprofit serving the New Hampshire community by providing objective information about issues, elected officials, bills, elections, and candidates.  These articles are being shared by partners in The Granite State News Collaborative. For more information visit collaborativenh.org.

Watch Online

12/1/2021 - Funding Local Journalism

Why local media outlets are turning to donations and philanthropy.

Watch More Is It time to update the NH Constitution?


Return to the
The State We're In
Main Page

Support for The State We're In is provided by Grappone Automotive GroupHeritage Home Service and Eversource.

The State We're In is produced in partnership with the Granite State News Collaborative which is  funded in part by the Solutions Journalism Network and the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation.  Production assistance is provided by the students and staff of the Marlin Fitzwater Center for Communication at Franklin Pierce Unversity in Rindge, NH.





More Video

11/17/2021 - Supply Chain Impact on Food Insecurity

11/17/2021 - Supply Chain Impact on Food Insecurity

How are food banks handling this holiday season?

11/10/2021 - Our Story NH Project

11/10/2021 - Our Story NH Project

The isolation of Covid leaves us with a need to reconnect.

11/3/2021 - The Great Resignation

11/3/2021 - The Great Resignation

Across the globe, people are leaving their jobs in droves.

Peterborough's Cautionary Tale

Peterborough's Cautionary Tale

Peterborough Town Administrator Nicole MacStay shares a cautionary tale.


10/27/2021 - Cybersecurity

10/27/2021 - Cybersecurity

Experts warn, the time to focus on prevention is before the bad actors attack.

Cybersecurity Expert

Cybersecurity Expert

Jason Sgro of the Atom Group spends his days (and nights) investigating attacks.

10/20/2021 - Diversity in the 603

10/20/2021 - Diversity in the 603

New census data shows New Hampshire is growing more diverse.

Anthony Payton

Anthony Payton

Why Anthony Tone Payton is seeking Common Ground - one podcast at a time.

Ernesto Burden

Ernesto Burden

Meet the publisher of the new publication called 603 Diversity.

10/13/2021 - Should NH Update the Constitution?

10/13/2021 - Should NH Update the Constitution?

Every year there are about a dozen proposals to change the NH Constitution.

10/6/2021 - Vaccine Hesitancy and Children

10/6/2021 - Vaccine Hesitancy and Children

Some parents may find themselves a little hesitant of vaccinating their children.

9/29/2021 - NH Labor Shortage

9/29/2021 - NH Labor Shortage

Wherever you go, you see help wanted signs. NH's labor shortage is affecting all sectors.

Help Wanted

Help Wanted

The critical labor shortage is affecting all sectors.

I Build NH Initiative

I Build NH Initiative

One of the sectors hit hard by the labor shortage is construction.

9/21/21 - Education Inequity in the Granite State

9/21/21 - Education Inequity in the Granite State

A new GSNC reporting initiative explores education inequity in the Granite State.

Employer Vaccine Mandates

Employer Vaccine Mandates

The impact of the proposed new vaccine mandates on New Hampshire businesses.

9/1/2021 - First Gen American

9/1/2021 - First Gen American

They are the future of New Hampshire.

8/25/2021 - Back to School Fall 2021

8/25/2021 - Back to School Fall 2021

NH Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut answers back to school questions.

8/18/2021 - Environmental Justice  - Burdens of Heat

8/18/2021 - Environmental Justice - Burdens of Heat

A new project by the NH Bar News and the Granite State News Collaborative.

8/11/2021 - Eviction Moratorium Update

8/11/2021 - Eviction Moratorium Update

What legal assistance is available to New Hampshire residents?

Eviction Moratorium Update (Spanish)

Eviction Moratorium Update (Spanish)

The Biden Administration has reinstated the CDC's eviction moratorium through early Octobe

8/4/2021 - The Variant Strikes Back

8/4/2021 - The Variant Strikes Back

COVID-19 cases are rising again in New Hampshire.

7/28/2021 - Child Care Concerns

7/28/2021 - Child Care Concerns

NH's child care industry is struggling.

Jayme Hines

Jayme Hines

Jayme Hines, president of the NH Association for the Education of Young Children.

Rick Green

Rick Green

GSNC Reporter Rick Green reports on the issues facing families and providers.

7/21/2021 - What's in the Budget?

7/21/2021 - What's in the Budget?

New Hampshire's new budget has been signed and in effect for nearly a month.

7/14/2021 -

7/14/2021 - "Divisive Concepts" Law

We hear from Gov. Sununu on what's next and GSNC Reporter Jenny Whidden on reaction.

6/30/2021 - Grassroots Tutoring

6/30/2021 - Grassroots Tutoring

A group of parents in Manchester have created an all-volunteer tutoring network.

6/23/2021 - Legislative Update

6/23/2021 - Legislative Update

Legislation, politics and some long overdue recognition.

NH Gives 2021

NH Gives 2021

NH Gives, the 24-hour online nonprofit fundraising event is set for June 8 and 9, 2021.

5/26/2021 - College Diversity

5/26/2021 - College Diversity

Student reporters look at diversity on New Hampshire College campuses.

5/19/2021 - Housing Frenzy

5/19/2021 - Housing Frenzy

Housing prices are on the rise again in the Granite State.

5/12/2021 - Stay, Work, Engage!

5/12/2021 - Stay, Work, Engage!

New Hampshire is the second oldest state in the nation.

5/5/2021 - Back to School (Again)

5/5/2021 - Back to School (Again)

May 3rd marked the state mandated return to full in-person operations for schools.

4/28/2021 -Back to Business

4/28/2021 -Back to Business

New guidance on masking up in New Hampshire.

4/21/2021 - NH Legislative Crossover Update

4/21/2021 - NH Legislative Crossover Update

We're halfway through the New Hampshire Legislative session.

4/14/2021 - Race and Equity in NH

4/14/2021 - Race and Equity in NH

A new multi year project exploring race and equity in New Hampshire.

4/7/2021 - You're Vaccinated - Now What?

4/7/2021 - You're Vaccinated - Now What?

As of April 1st, anyone over 16 in New Hampshire is eligible to sign up for the vaccine.

3/31/2021 - NH Civic Health

3/31/2021 - NH Civic Health

How do you measure a community's civic health?

3/17/2021 - Sunshine Week - Your Right to Know

3/17/2021 - Sunshine Week - Your Right to Know

Sunshine Week, legislation, transparency in journalism and the public's right to know.

3/10/2021 - Covering Covid - One Year Later

3/10/2021 - Covering Covid - One Year Later

It's been one year since the Covid-19 pandemic changed life as we know it.

3/2/2021 - One on One with Gov. Chris Sununu

3/2/2021 - One on One with Gov. Chris Sununu

As we mark a year since the Covid-19 pandemic changed life as we know it.

Food Insecurity in the Granite State

Food Insecurity in the Granite State

To be food insecure means to struggle to meet the basic needs of putting food on the table

2/17/2021 - COVID Effect on School Funding

2/17/2021 - COVID Effect on School Funding

What we all need to know about the budget process on the local and state level.

2/10/2021 - Back to the Classroom

2/10/2021 - Back to the Classroom

Moving into 2021, schools are easing towards reopening, but many questions remain.

2/3/2021 - Vaccine Questions and Answers

2/3/2021 - Vaccine Questions and Answers

The COVID-19 vaccination rollout is in full swing across the Granite State.

1/27/2021 - New NH Legislative Session

1/27/2021 - New NH Legislative Session

New Hampshire's legislature is back in session.

1/21/21 - Political Extremism in NH

1/21/21 - Political Extremism in NH

Where do we go from here?



Visit video.nhpbs.org to see even more local and national video.


More to Explore

Coronavirus Updates

Coronavirus Updates