Ratification: Definition & Process

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  • 0:00 What Is Ratification?
  • 0:47 Constitutional…
  • 2:23 Treaty Ratification Process
  • 3:10 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Stephen Benz

Stephen has a JD and a BA in sociology and political science.

In this lesson, we'll discuss the meaning of ratification. We will also talk about how ratification of the Constitution occurred, how amendments to the Constitution are approved, and how foreign treaties are ratified.

What Is Ratification?

Imagine you are a famous athlete. Your sports agent has negotiated a contract for you which he thinks you will accept, so he signs the contract on your behalf. Are you now legally bound to this contract? Not until you ratify it!

Ratification occurs when a law, treaty, or other legal binding document is signed into law by some kind of agent, and the person that the agent is representing approves it. In short, ratification is just a fancy way of saying that a document received someone's final approval.

In the context of the United States government, ratification is used in two senses. First, there is the ratification of constitutional amendments. Second, there is the ratification of foreign treaties. We will discuss both of these in this lesson.

Constitutional Ratification Process

According to Article 7 of the Constitution, the United States Constitution could be ratified only after 9 of the original 13 states voted in favor of this document. The Constitution became heavily debated in some states. To get it ratified, pro-Constitution supporters pushed votes in states they felt would easily approve the Constitution. Delaware, for example, was the first state to ratify the Constitution with all votes in favor. Subsequent states, however, barely had more than 50% approval of the Constitution. In the end, though, all of the original 13 colonies approved the Constitution, leading to its ratification.

Article 5 of the Constitution also specifies the process necessary for ratifying amendments to the Constitution. The Framers recognized that times will change. As a result, they wanted the Constitution to be flexible enough to change over the years. For this reason, they allowed for amendments, or additions, to the Constitution.

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