Tandem means “having two things arranged one in front of the other.” The government was designed by the framers as a tandem. The United States Constitution is the Supreme Law of the Land. State Constitutions, in comparison, are clearly less influential but still very important in the United States. State Constitutions have been dealt a bad hand in modern America. On average, only about 50% of the United States population votes in elections- the U.S. averages about 60% voting on presidential election years and about 40% on midterm election years, figures courtesy of Fairvote.org. On top of this, the more localized an election, (meaning the smaller-scale the election is) the less percentage of eligible voters in that election vote. Thus, it’s conceivable that citizens, as a whole, pay less attention to a document like Arizona’s State Constitution than the United States Constitution.
Arizona’s Constitution, though, is a very influential document to the state and has ramifications that spread even beyond the state borders.
The Constitution of the State of Arizona is comprised of thirty articles, each with individual purpose in outlining the government of the 48th state to join the Union. The first simply outlines the state boundaries and lists how the boundaries might be changed. The second, however, is the Arizona Declaration of Rights.
The first section of this Declaration states “A frequent recurrence to fundamental principles is essential to the security of individual rights and the perpetuity of free government.” The very start of the Declaration outlines that in order for citizens to remain free, or to retain their individual rights (among which are life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness) the citizens must frequently review whether or not the government even follows the fundamental principles, among which are: Rule of Law, which states that government officials aren’t immune to their own laws; Limited Government, meaning that the government only has as much power as its constituents allow; Separation of Powers, which distributes powers evenly within the government to best serve citizens; Checks and Balances, a system in which the evenly distributed powers of government are maintained by the individual branches of government so as to keep one branch from becoming too powerful and gaining complete control; and several more principles.
The second section of the document further emphasizes these principles by stating that “All political power is inherent in the people…” The Declaration then goes on to list a “Victims’ Bill of Rights,” and then further rights of the citizens. Something that one may find interesting is that most of the rights in the U.S. Constitution are further stated and protected, presumably in case the federal Constitution gets breached. First amendment rights are protected in the Arizona Declaration of Rights by right numbers 5, 6, and 12. The Declaration of Rights also takes the opportunity to prohibit legal actions by illegal aliens, to outline treason and its penalties, and to outlaw hereditary emoluments, privileges, and powers.
The third through sixth articles of the State Constitution outline Distribution of Powers, the Legislative Department, the Executive Department, and the Judicial Department. Within these, the Constitution lists the rules for electing officials and their duties of office. The Executive Department is headed by a governor, and the Legislative Department is comprised of a bicameral legislature, with 30 Senators and 60 Representatives. The Judicial Branch is made up of all of the courts of the state, the foremost being the Arizona Supreme Court.
Finally, the remaining twenty-four articles are about specific issues, such as education, medical, labor, the militia, and the official language. Another interesting tidbit is that the State Constitution gives the state government power over public education in Article XI and the Public Retirement Systems are listed in Article XXIX, which are two controversial subjects due to recent happenings on the federal level concerning health care, retirement, and education, all of which being powers reserved for the states.
The Arizona Constitution is a very important document that provides the very foundation for Arizona government. While the United States Constitution is the Supreme Law of the Land, the AZ Constitution is relevant in the protection of rights and the powers of the government within the state, and the two provide a powerful tandem in the defense of human rights. It protects the rights of individuals, fights off attempts by the federal government to encroach upon reserved powers, and continues to sustain a precedent set by the first states to create their own Constitutions. The tandem provided by the Constitution of the United States – the supreme law of the land – and the Arizona Constitution will be vital in the defense of human rights within the state; if they can be upheld, then freedom will be maintained. If they fall, then freedom will be lost and all that the Founding Fathers – and every true American since then – have worked for would be nullified, broken, and completely eradicated from the history put forth by corruption.