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United States Constitution | Study Guide

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United States Constitution | Amendments 20–27 | Summary



Amendment 20

The 20th Amendment shifts the presidential term from beginning on March 4 to beginning on January 20. It also establishes January 3 as the traditional day for Congress's annual meeting. If a president-elect dies before the start of the term, the vice president-elect assumes the office of president.

Amendment 21

The 21st Amendment repeals Prohibition. The sale and purchase of alcoholic beverages are again legal.

Amendment 22

The 22nd Amendment limits the number of terms a president may serve to two four-year terms, or a total of eight years.

Amendment 23

The 23rd Amendment gives Washington, DC, the capital of the United States, the right to count as a state for purposes of the Electoral College.

Amendment 24

This amendment outlaws poll taxes, and it states that a citizen cannot be charged any type of tax in order to vote.

Amendment 25

The 25th Amendment details what will happen in the case of a president's death or removal from office. If possible, the vice president will take over the presidency. If the office of vice president becomes vacant, the president may nominate a new vice president to be confirmed by Congress. If the president is temporarily unable to fulfill his duties, he may write a letter to Congress and temporarily give over the presidency to the vice president until able to resume duties.

Amendment 26

The 18th Amendment lowers the voting age to 18.

Amendment 27

Pay raises for members of Congress may not be passed to take effect within a session. If passed, they must take effect in the next session.


The 20th Amendment was a solution to the "lame duck" issue, where a president on the way out of office would spend the months between the November elections and when the new president took office in March with very little actual power. With improvements in technology that allowed for faster and more efficient communication, three-month transition periods for the president and Congress were no longer necessary, and the inauguration date was moved to January 20.

After 14 years of Prohibition, the 21st Amendment was passed in 1933, officially ending the ban on alcohol. The process of banning alcohol had proved costly and mostly unsuccessful, as speakeasies and the black market thrived throughout the "Roaring Twenties." After losing a lot of public support for the law, as well as billions of dollars, Prohibition was reversed in this amendment.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882–1945) was the only president in U.S. history to be elected to serve more than two terms. He was elected for a fourth term but died a few months in. After this event, Congress ratified the 22nd Amendment in 1951, which officially limited presidents to two four-year terms.

The District of Columbia was the impetus for the 23rd Amendment. The capital had a rapidly growing population of citizens who paid taxes, but as the District of Columbia was not officially a state, they had no voting rights. The amendment was passed to give these citizens state-like voting rights in the Electoral College. However, no other state rights were granted to Washington, DC.

The 24th Amendment, passed in the middle of the civil rights movement, was an attempt to remove the lingering obstacles keeping the African-American population from voting. The poll tax was still used in many southern states to keep impoverished African-American communities from being able to vote. This amendment outlawed the poll tax and any other kind of taxes placed on voting.

The final amendment to the Constitution was passed to discourage members of Congress from giving themselves pay raises during a congressional session. The amendment states that if any pay raises are passed, they cannot take effect until the following session. The hope with this amendment was that it might demotivate members of Congress from passing pay raises because they might not personally gain from them.

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