There are three primary mechanisms through which constitutions can be changed: amendments, judicial interpretation, and political practices.
Judicial interpretation by state courts has not historically been an avenue of changing the Texas constitution, although trends indicate that state courts are beginning to play a greater role in changing state constitutions through the interpretation and application of provisions to specific cases (similar to when federal courts hear cases involving questions of constitutional law). Similarly, the Texas constitution has not been expanded significantly through political practices, although some individual roles in government have grown in influence beyond their constitutional powers (ex: Governor and Lieutenant Governor).
Most changes to the Texas constitution occur through the amendment process. Amendments are formal, written changes or additions to a constitution. The Texas legislature begins the process of amending the Texas constitution; however, in line with the state’s individualistic political culture, the electorate is given the final say:
- A joint resolution is introduced in one of the state legislative chambers (either the Texas House of Representatives or the Texas Senate)
- The joint resolution is approved by 2/3 vote in both the Texas House of Representatives and the Texas Senate
- The proposed amendment is placed on the ballot for the next general election (in November)
- A majority of voters (50% + 1 vote) must approve the proposed amendment for it to be ratified and formally added to the Texas constitution
Generally, elections to ratify constitutional amendments generate little voter interest, and many voters may not be knowledgeable of these proposed amendments (or, if the election to ratify constitutional amendments coincides with the presidential election, voters may not even realize there will be constitutional amendments on the ballot until they are casting their votes).
As of 2022 (the 87th Legislature), the Texas Legislature had proposed 700 amendments to our current constitution, 517 of which were approved by Texas voters.