Article V of the Constitution, Explained

The United States Senate favors states with small populations. Wyoming has half a million people and California has 40 million people, but they both get exactly two senators each.

I assume we all know this, right? And we know how unfair it is. And how much it favors Republicans. And how it’s intolerable and we should change it. And how it’s the root of all evil at this moment in history. Etc. This is pretty much all true, but before anybody says anything more, I’d like to introduce you all to Article V of the US Constitution:

The Congress, whenever two thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose Amendments to this Constitution…..

Article V is about amending the Constitution. You all know how that’s done, so let’s skip ahead to the final sentence:

Provided that no Amendment which may be made prior to the Year One thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any Manner affect the first and fourth Clauses in the Ninth Section of the first Article; and that no State, without its Consent, shall be deprived of its equal Suffrage in the Senate.

See that? It means that you can’t amend the Constitution to change the Senate. Every state gets the same number of votes. Period. Even if you fancifully assume that there’s some way of getting a whole bunch of states to agree to reduce their own power via constitutional amendment, it doesn’t matter. There’s no way to alter Senate representation without calling a constitutional convention and literally writing a whole new constitution.

So can we please all stop yammering about this? It’s unfair and intolerable and its roots are offensive and blah blah blah. But it doesn’t matter. There’s nothing you can do to change it. If you want to yammer about something useful, how about coming up with ways for progressives to do a better job of winning votes in small states?


as we head into 2020 is whether politics and media will be a billionaires’ game, or a playing field where the rest of us have a shot. That's what Mother Jones CEO Monika Bauerlein tackles in her annual December column—"Billionaires Are Not the Answer"—about the state of journalism and our plans for the year ahead.

We can't afford to let independent reporting depend on the goodwill of the superrich: Please help Mother Jones build an alternative to oligarchy that is funded by and answerable to its readers. Please join us with a tax-deductible, year-end donation so we can keep going after the big stories without fear, favor, or false equivalency.


as we head into 2020 is whether politics and media will be a billionaires’ game, or a playing field where the rest of us have a shot.

Please read our annual column about the state of journalism and Mother Jones' plans for the year ahead, and help us build an alternative to oligarchy by supporting our people-powered journalism with a year-end gift today.

We Recommend


Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.


Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.


We have a new comment system! We are now using Coral, from Vox Media, for comments on all new articles. We'd love your feedback.