Website Compiles Hard-to-Find Details About Changes to the State Constitution
By Maeve Toman ’26
Interested citizens can now access a full and dynamic listing of every change to the Constitution of Virginia made in the last half century on a new website that is the project of Rich Meagher, professor of political science at Randolph-Macon College, with the generous support of the Virginia Law Foundation.
Upon beginning research on the state constitution years ago, Meagher discovered few sources dedicated to the changes to the document, which was ratified in 1971. “In fact, there seemed to be only three sources of information about Virginia’s constitutional amendments,” he noted. Meagher says even scholars who follow the frequent changes to state constitutions had trouble cataloging them, and his research shows there are mistakes in this scholarship. “Sources that would normally provide even the number of amendments were incomplete or inaccurate,” he shared. “The dearth affects scholars of law and political science who wish to study our state constitution, K12 or higher ed teachers who are engaging students in Virginia history and civic education, and any Virginia citizen who wishes to learn about the commonwealth’s constitutional tradition. “
Meagher concluded there was no publicly available list of amendments to the Constitution of Virginia. So, the Virginia Amendments Project was born.
The result is a website, hosted through Randolph-Macon College. It includes a chronological, clearly documented list of each amendment previously made to the constitution with helpful links to ballot questions, vote totals, and legislation. Users can access an overview of Virginia’s constitutional history with a copy of the original 1971 Constitution that is still in effect today. Each specific change to the previous document is clearly marked so readers can see exactly what was added and removed.
Additionally, commentary and graphics, as well as links to constitutional amendments in other states are included to highlight the amendment process in context. This intentional depth of information will allow the General Assembly, scholars, educators, lawyers, and curious readers alike to gain a well-rounded understanding of the documented changes to Virginia’s constitution.
Dr. Meagher, who teaches political science and social entrepreneurship, is an observer of local and state politics in the capital city of Richmond, Virginia, and his commentary has been featured widely in print and on television and radio news programs. He is a political analyst for WRIC 8 News, and his commentary and opinion have appeared in the national and local media publications. His latest book, Local Politics Matters: A Citizen’s Guide for Making a Difference (2020), argues for the importance of participation in city and county politics.
Meagher hopes this information will improve public awareness, and more broadly, civic knowledge about the well-being of the commonwealth. “We should know how our constitution changes, and when it changes, and why it changes,” Meagher said. “It happens an average of once a year. Some of those changes are small, like tax codes, and some of those changes are big, like redistricting commissions, which is a big, sweeping change that impacts elections.”
He’s also confident that the work completed, which included research and database assistance from Mackenzie Phillips ’23, will allow Randolph-Macon scholars to be associated with continued scholarship on the overall governance of Virginia. Information can be found on RMC’s amendment website.