The Commonwealth Constitution was drafted by thirty-nine elected delegates meeting in a constitutional convention on Saipan in 1976. Their proposed constitution was subsequently ratified by Northern Mariana Islands voters on March 6, 1977, and became effective January 9, 1978. The original ratified 1976 Constitution (unamended) and the latest Constitution (with amendments and case annotations) is reprinted in the Northern Mariana Islands Commonwealth Code and is also sold in pamphlet format by the Commonwealth Law Revision Commision.
Many provisions of the Commonwealth Constitution are mandated by the Covenant, including the bill of rights in Article I, the separate executive, legislative and judicial branches established in Articles II, III and IV, and the provision in Article XII restricting acquisition of long-term interests in land to persons of Northern Marianas descent.
Proposed Constitutional amendments must be ratified by Commonwealth voters. The procedure for adopting amendments is specified in the Constitution. See Article XVIII. As of May 2005, voters have ratified fifty-two proposed amendments. A brief history of amendments follows:
In 1985, voters ratified forty-four amendments proposed by a second constitutional convention that convened that year. (One 1985 amendment, concerning Section 8 of the Constitution's Schedule on Transitional Matters, was subsequently ruled invalid in a legal challenge.)
In 1987, 1989, 1993, 1997, and 1999 voters ratified a total of eight amendments proposed by legislative initiative.
Prior to November 1999, twenty-one proposed amendments failed to win approval from voters, including nineteen amendments proposed by a third constitutional convention that convened in 1995 (which were voted upon in a special election held in March 1996), an amendment proposed by popular initiative in 1989, and an amendment proposed by legislative initiative in 1995.
To view a particular article or the preamble of the Constitution click on the appropriate link below: