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Amendments require a 'peculiar majority'

Dear Answer Man, why is it that if a voter casts a ballot but doesn't vote for or against the same-sex marriage amendment, it counts as a no vote? -- George

George, I must ask that you read my column every day. If you don't, you miss vital information, plus a dash of timeless humor and engaging wit.

In one of my magnificent essays last month on the two constitutional amendments on the Minnesota ballot today, I explained that it's not supposed to be TOO easy to amend the constitution, though frankly, this year it looks perfectly easy when one party controls the Legislature. All it takes is the House and Senate to approve resolutions to put a proposed amendment on the ballot and the governor can't veto it. Bingo, off to the voters.

But the constitution does require a "peculiar majority" of voters, which is to say, a majority of voters who cast ballots. If you tend to vote just for president or city council and leave the rest blank, you'll be voting no on the amendments.

That makes the hurdle just a bit higher for politicians who want to make profound and long-lasting changes to our founding document.


The rule regarding a majority of voters was itself the product of a constitutional amendment. When the Minnesota Constitution was written, it required only a simple majority in the House and Senate and a simple majority of votes cast. The constitution was amended in 1898 to "require a majority of all the electors voting at the election."

So you can't dodge your responsibility, in other words. And by the way, it's much harder to amend the federal Constitution, which requires a two-thirds majority in the U.S. House and Senate and three-quarters of the states to ratify.

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