Ratification is the act of giving official sanction or approval to a formal document such as a treaty or constitution. It includes the process of adopting an international treaty by the legislature, a constitution, or another nationally binding document (such as an amendment to a constitution) by the agreement of multiple sub-national entities. The process of ratifying a constitution is most commonly observed in federations such as the United States, confederations or international organisations sui generis such as the European Union.

In unionized workplaces, during negotiations, a contract proposal by an employer, that may be acceptable to the collective bargaining committee, will be brought back for ratification, or a vote by the general membership, before the union can either accept or decline such a contract proposal. A ratified proposal means a "Yes" vote and will form the basis for the new CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement) for that workplace.

Ratification Of A Constitution

Different organizations have different rules for how a constitutional change is ratified. Federations usually require the support of both the federal government and a certain percentage of the subsidiary entities. Some ratification processes also require a supermajority within legislatures.

Ratification of the United States Constitution

Main article: History of the United States Constitution.

Article Seven of the constitution of the United States describes the process by which the entire document was to become effective. It required that conventions of nine of the thirteen original States ratify the constitution. Once word was received that the ninth state had ratified the constitution - New Hampshire, June 21, 1788 - a timetable was set for the start of operations under the Constitution, and on March 4, 1789, the government under the Constitution began operations.

Ratification of the European Constitution

All government leaders of the European Union signed the treaty, however, subject to national ratification. The process for ratifying the Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe — a proposed constitutional document for the European Union (EU) — varied from country to country; seven countries were intending to hold binding referendums to determine the outcome, sixteen would decide by parliamentary vote and two countries opted for parliamentary approval advised by an advisory referendum. To take full effect, the constitution should have been ratified by all the member states of the EU as well as the European Parliament. The constitution was ratified by the European Parliament and sixteen member states (based on the parliaments of fourteen member states, and referendums in two others, Spain and Luxembourg). However, referendums first in France (on 29 May, 2005) and then in the Netherlands (on 1 June, 2005) rejected the constitution. After some minor modifications, such as dropping the label 'constitution' and references to the flag, the text was adopted as the Treaty of Lisbon.

Ratification of the Treaty of Lisbon is now in progress, although it was rejected by Irish voters in a referendum in June 2008. As it must be ratified by all member states, it is therefore no longer clear whether it will be ratified. The aim is to finish the ratification process by 2009.


The ratification of the current Constitution of Ireland was achieved by plebiscite in 1937.

Ratification of an international treaty

The ratification of international treaties follows the same rules as the passing of laws in most democracies. Important exceptions are the United Kingdom and the United States.

In the UK, treaty ratification is a Royal Prerogative, exercised by Her Majesty's Government,

In the U.S.A., treaty ratification must be advised and consented to by a two-thirds majority in the U.S. Senate. The Senate does not actually ratify treaties. Once the Senate has given its advice and consent to ratification, the President ratifies the treaty by signing an instrument of ratification. While the United States House of Representatives does not vote on it at all, the requirement for Senate advice and consent to ratification makes it considerably more difficult in the US than in other democracies to rally enough political support for international treaties.


The treaty or legislation does not apply until it has been ratified. Usually this must be done first by both parties (in July 2006 British bankers contested their extradition to the US in application of a treaty not yet ratified in America), or in a multilateral agreement it may be provided that a quorum (e.g. half) of the signatories must have ratified it.


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