CNMI Constitution

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:



Amendments: Procedure for Adoption


Constitutional amendments may be proposed by:


constitutional convention of elected delegates. The question of whether to hold a constitutional convention must be submitted to voters no later than ten years after the question was last submitted; see Article XVIII, § 2. (The question was last submitted in November 1994.) An amendment proposed by constitutional convention is ratified if it is approved by a majority of the votes cast and at least two-thirds of the votes cast in two of the three existing senatorial districts: Rota (District One), Tinian and Aguiguan (District Two), and Saipan and the Northern Islands (District Three). (See Article XVIII, § 5.)


Popular initiative. An amendment proposed by popular initiative is submitted to voters if petitions proposing the amendment are signed by at least fifty percent of the persons qualified to vote in the Commonwealth and at least twenty-five percent of the persons qualified to vote in each senatorial district; see Article XVIII, § 4. Like an amendment proposed by constitutional convention, an amendment proposed by popular initiative is ratified if it is approved by a majority of the votes cast and at least two-thirds of the votes cast in two of the three existing senatorial districts. (See Article XVIII, § 5.)


Legislative initiative. An amendment proposed by legislative initiative is submitted to voters if the legislative act proposing the amendment is approved by at least three-fourths of the members of each house of the legislature present and voting; see Article XVIII, § 3. In contrast to amendments proposed by constitutional convention or popular initiative, an amendment proposed by legislative initiative is ratified if it is approved simply by a majority of the votes cast. (See Article XVIII, § 5.)