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Is there a Limit to the Number of States in the Union?

Statehood for both Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C. is showing up as a talking point in the 2020 presidential campaign. But can either the territory or the district become a state? A questioner at Quora thinks not.

“I was told that Puerto Rico cannot be a state because there was an amendment to the Constitution after Alaska’s statehood was ratified,” one participant wrote.

There have been several amendments to the Constitution since Alaska became a state:

  • The 23rd amendment in 1961 gave residents of the District of Columbia the right to vote in presidential elections even though they do not live in a state.
  • The 24th amendment in 1964 abolished poll taxes from being charged in elections for federal officials.  Before this amendment, citizens in some states sometimes had to pay a fee to vote in a national election. 
  • The 25th amendment in 1967 lays out what should be done if the President of the United States becomes unable to do his or her job.
  • The 26th amendment in 1971 set the voting age at 18.
  • The 27th amendment says that changes in the amount of money members of Congress earn can’t take place until after new elections. Congress therefore can’t vote itself a raise or a pay cut; it can only make that change for the next Congress. However, there is an automatic pay raise each year, unless Congress votes against it.

None of these amendments set a maximum number of states. Nor is there any language in the Constitution setting a limit on states.

This is an easy question to answer, because it is a simple factual question. Anyone can read the Constitution and its amendments and draw the same conclusion: the United States can have all the states it wants.

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