The App That Helps You Draft a Constitution

Mar 17, 2015

From Texas Standard

On average there are about a dozen ongoing civil wars across the world. Most of the news coverage of these conflicts revolves around political and military action, but what happens when that dictator or president is overthrown? What happens when a country has to restart anew and a new constitution has to be drafted?

Well, there’s an app for that.

It's called Constitute, a Google-backed search application that allows users to cherry-pick the best parts of constitutions across the world and use them as the basis to create their own.

Zack Elkins is a political science professor at the University of Texas and is co-director of the project. He says part of the reason he created the software is to fill an often-overlooked need for it.

“If you actually look at the longevity of constitutions, you get quite a bit of turnover,” Elkins says. “On average they are replaced every 20 years or so."

What people seem to forget is that constitutions in many ways are living documents, and that means that over time they have to be updated or even rewritten. Constitute works by allowing users to borrow wording and examples from other successful constitutions around the world.

“When we started talking to people who were writing them, what they wanted was access to the text,” Elkins says.

Elkins says that the software aids users by increasing their accessibility to the text, giving often jargon-filled language easy-to-find search parameters.