Nebraska State Constitution Article XVI-1

Article XVI-1


How Proposed.

The Legislature may propose amendments to this Constitution. If the same be agreed to by three-fifths of the members elected to the Legislature, such proposed amendments shall be entered on the journal, with yeas and nays, and published once each week for three consecutive weeks, in at least one newspaper in each county, where a newspaper is published, immediately preceding the next election of members of the Legislature or a special election called by the vote of four-fifths of the members elected to the Legislature for the purpose of submitting such proposed amendments to the electors. At such election said amendments shall be submitted to the electors for approval or rejection upon a ballot separate from that upon which the names of candidates appear. If a majority of the electors voting on any such amendment adopt the same, it shall become a part of this Constitution, provided the votes cast in favor of such amendment shall not be less than thirty-five per cent of the total votes cast at such election. When two or more amendments are submitted at the same election, they shall be so submitted as to enable the electors to vote on each amendment separately.


  • Neb. Const. art. XV, sec. 1 (1875);
  • Amended 1920, Constitutional Convention, 1919-1920, No. 39;
  • Transferred by Constitutional Convention, 1919-1920, art. XVI, sec. 1;
  • Amended 1952, Laws 1951, c. 161, sec. 1, p. 638;
  • Amended 1968, Laws 1967, c. 317, sec. 1, p. 848.


1. General

2. Separate vote requirement

3. Procedures found compliant

4. Procedures found not compliant

5. Miscellaneous

1. General

Article III, sections 2 and 4, of the Constitution of the State of Nebraska set out some of the procedural requirements that must be met before an enactment initiated by a petition becomes a part of the statutory law of Nebraska or a part of the Nebraska Constitution. The people of Nebraska have specifically reserved the right to amend their Constitution themselves in sections 2 and 4 of Article III and in Article XVI, section 1, of the Nebraska Constitution. Omaha Nat. Bank v. Spire, 223 Neb. 209, 389 N.W.2d 269 (1986).

This section provides procedure for amending Nebraska Constitution. Cunningham v. Exon, 207 Neb. 513, 300 N.W.2d 6 (1980).

Constitutional provision should not be construed so as to defeat the will of the people, plainly expressed, and substantial compliance with its requirements is sufficient. Swanson v. State, 132 Neb. 82, 271 N.W. 264 (1937).

Substantial compliance with constitutional limitations as to provisions for amendments thereto are sufficient. State ex rel. Thompson v. Winnett, 78 Neb. 379, 110 N.W. 1113 (1907).

2. Separate vote requirement

A preelection challenge that a legislative proposal to amend the Constitution of Nebraska violates this provision’s separate-vote requirement is ripe for appellate review before an election. Because this requirement governs the form of a proposed ballot measure, a claim that the requirement was violated is a challenge to the measure’s legal sufficiency. Such challenges are directed at the manner in which the election will be held rather than whether proposed amendments, if adopted, would violate substantive constitutional provisions. State ex rel. Loontjer v. Gale, 288 Neb. 973, 853 N.W.2d 494 (2014).

The Legislature’s independent proposals to amend the constitution must be presented to the voters for a separate vote even if they are proposed in a single resolution. State ex rel. Loontjer v. Gale, 288 Neb. 973, 853 N.W.2d 494 (2014).

The separate-vote requirement under this constitutional provision imposes the same requirements as the single subject requirement under article III, section 2: A voter initiative or a legislatively proposed constitutional amendment may not contain two or more distinct subjects for voter approval in a single vote. State ex rel. Loontjer v. Gale, 288 Neb. 973, 853 N.W.2d 494 (2014).

The single subject test for ballot measures to change the law —whether the measure is a voter initiative or a legislatively proposed constitutional amendment—is whether the proposed law’s provisions have a natural and necessary connection with each other and together are part of one general subject. State ex rel. Loontjer v. Gale, 288 Neb. 973, 853 N.W.2d 494 (2014).

Under the single subject ballot requirement, the general subject of a proposed ballot measure is defined by its primary purpose. Without a unifying purpose, separate proposals in a ballot measure necessarily present independent and distinct proposals that require a separate vote. State ex rel. Loontjer v. Gale, 288 Neb. 973, 853 N.W.2d 494 (2014).

3. Procedures found compliant

Canvass of vote upon adoption of constitutional amendment was properly made by State Canvassing Board. State ex rel. Oldham v. Dean, 84 Neb. 344, 121 N.W. 719 (1909).

4. Procedures found not compliant

Constitutional amendment purporting to exclude schools of deaf and blind from jurisdiction of Board of Control was ineffective for failure to comply with requirements as to giving and publication of notice. State ex rel. Hall v. Cline, 118 Neb. 150, 224 N.W. 6 (1929).

5. Miscellaneous

The constitutional requirements for legislative bills do not apply to the Legislature’s proposed amendments. Thus, the “single subject” rule that applies to legislative bills under article III, section 14, of the Constitution of Nebraska does not apply to ballot measures for the Legislature’s proposed constitutional amendments. State ex rel. Loontjer v. Gale, 288 Neb. 973, 853 N.W.2d 494 (2014).

The Secretary of State cannot determine the substantive merits of the Legislature’s proposed constitutional amendment. But in a legal sufficiency challenge, he has a duty to reject a proposed amendment as legally defective for failing to satisfy form and procedural requirements. There is no requirement that the proposed amendment be “patently unconstitutional on its face” before the Secretary must act. State ex rel. Loontjer v. Gale, 288 Neb. 973, 853 N.W.2d 494 (2014).

The Secretary of State’s statutory duties to provide the ballot form for the Legislature’s proposed constitutional amendments and to certify its contents, coupled with his duties to supervise elections and decide disputed points of election laws, clearly require him to consider whether a proposed amendment complies with the separate-vote provision. Power vested in a governmental body or officer carries with it the implied power to do what is necessary to accomplish an express statutory duty, absent any other law that restrains the implied power. State ex rel. Loontjer v. Gale, 288 Neb. 973, 853 N.W.2d 494 (2014).

By analogy to this section, publication of home rule charter amendment substantially complied with constitutional requirements. Sandell v. City of Omaha, 115 Neb. 861, 215 N.W. 135 (1927).

Submission of a proposed constitutional amendment by the Legislature is not a legislative act. Weston v. Ryan, 70 Neb. 211, 97 N.W. 347 (1903).