Constitution of South Carolina
The Constitution of the State of South Carolina is the governing document of the U.S. state of South Carolina. It describes the structure and function of the state's government. The current constitution took effect on December 4, 1895. South Carolina has had six other constitutions, which were adopted in 1776, 1778, 1790, 1861, 1865 and 1868.
Changes made in the 1895 Constitution
Before the 1895 Constitution, voter registration limits were lower; voting was open to all males of 21 years. In the 1895 Constitution, the focus of voter registration became one of "intelligence" instead of "personhood." Individuals would, until January 1, 1898, have to be able to answer questions about any constitutional provision asked to qualify as a voter. Thereafter, the registration process included a test of reading and writing; individuals with at least $20 in property were also permitted to vote.
Revisions since 1968
The 1895 Constitution has been rewritten article by article on an ongoing basis since 1968, with each proposed revision submitted to the voters for approval. Prior to 1968, the 1895 Constitution had been amended 330 times, making it one of the longest state constitutions in the United States. It had become a somewhat chaotic document, in large part because most of the amendments dealt with matters addressed by statute in most other states.
The great majority of these amendments dealt with bonded debt limits for local governments. Originally, changes in the bonded debt limits for counties could only be adopted by a statewide vote.
Article XVI, Section 1 requires constitutional amendments to be approved by two-thirds of each house of the legislature, approved by the people in an election, and then ratified by a majority of each house of the legislature. If the legislature fails to ratify the amendment, it does not take effect even though it has been approved by the people.
Some provisions of the Constitution of South Carolina have conflicted with the U.S. Constitution and the U.S. Supreme Court has had to resolve the constitutionality of some provisions of the former document. For example:
- Article IV, Section 2, regarding the qualifications of the governor, states: "No person shall be eligible to the office of Governor who denies the existence of the Supreme Being." This provision has never been enforced in modern times, since current precedent holds that the First Amendment's Establishment Clause is binding on the states per the 14th Amendment's Due Process Clause.
- Article XI, Section 7 required racial segregation in schools: "Separate schools shall be provided for children of the white and colored races, and no child of either race shall ever be permitted to attend a school provided for children of the other race." This was an issue in Briggs v. Elliott, and until segregation in schools was outlawed in Brown v. Board of Education. Article XI, Section 7 is removed from the text of the 2012 South Carolina Constitution online.
Some provisions of the Constitution of South Carolina are antiquated and reflect the morals of an earlier era. For example, Article XVII, Section 3 of the Constitution prohibited divorce for any reason. On April 15, 1949, it was revised to permit divorce for certain reasons. It is believed that South Carolina is the only state in which the grounds for divorce are written into the constitution. The legislature is thus prohibited from creating additional grounds for divorce except by constitutional amendment.
Other provisions of the Constitution of South Carolina are unique in certain respects:
- A two-thirds majority vote of the South Carolina House of Representatives is required to impeach the governor and other state officials, as opposed to the simple majority required by the U.S. Constitution and most other state constitutions.
- The adjutant general, head of the South Carolina National Guard, is an elected official. South Carolina is the only state where this is the case.
- Due to extremely strict annexation laws passed by the General Assembly in 1976, incorporated municipalities in South Carolina are usually much smaller in area and population than those elsewhere in the fast-growing Southeast. However, when adjacent suburbs which would be annexed elsewhere are added in, they exhibit sizes and rates of growth similar to many municipalities in neighboring states, such as Georgia and North Carolina.
- "The Old and the New". News and Courier (Charleston, South Carolina). December 4, 1895. p. 9. Retrieved December 4, 2014.
- Briggs v. Elliott, 98 F. Supp. 529 (E.D.S.C. 1951). Dissent by District Judge Waring at 538-539 quotes Article XI, Section 7 as it existed then (in 1951.)
- http://www.scstatehouse.gov/scconstitution/a11.php 2012 South Carolina Constitution Unannotated, Article XI. Public Education.