Last week, the State Democracy Research Initiative from the University of Wisconsin Law School launched two new interactive websites highlighting the uniqueness of state constitutions: The Democracy Principle & Tracking Constitutional Change.
“State constitutions are unique documents—in the rights they confer, the governmental structures they establish, and the ways they change over time,” notes Bree Grossi Wilde, Executive Director at SDRI. “They are not miniature federal constitutions, and they should be studied on their own terms. SDRI’s new resources highlight the unique features of state constitutions and will help researchers, journalists, and members of the public better understand these important founding documents.”
The Democracy Principle website allows users to explore the different democracy-promoting provisions of each state’s constitution and learn more about how state courts have interpreted these vital provisions. Users can view relevant provisions by state and also by category—popular sovereignty, suffrage, political equality, government institutions, direct democracy, and constitutional change.
Tracking Constitutional Change helps visualize the many amendments that have been made to state constitutions (more than 7,000 in total!) and allows researchers and the public to see how state founding documents have developed over time. Wisconsin is the project’s pilot state, and users can now view the Wisconsin Constitution as it stood on any date since its 1848 ratification, compare different versions of amended provisions, and read about significant amendments and moments in Wisconsin’s constitutional history.
Tracking Constitutional Change is part of SDRI’s broader 50 Constitutions project. Beginning on October 1, the project’s website—50constitutions.org—will also feature the current text of all 50 state constitutions and will allow users to search both within and across states. In the coming year, 50constitutions.org will add Tracking Constitutional Change functionality for more states and provide other new features as well.
The UW Law Library is proud to have supported the State Democracy Research Initiative in the development of these two sites. If you’re not familiar with SDRI, its mission is to foster academic research on state-level democracy, government institutions, and public law across the nation. The Initiative aims to shine a spotlight on the states, which traditionally receive less attention than the federal government in legal scholarship and education, and to serve as a resource for academics, policymakers, and advocates across the country.