Maryland government is based on a written compact known as the Constitution of Maryland. The State has had four constitutions, each containing a declaration of rights - the State's bill of rights. Maryland's first constitution was adopted during the Revolutionary War in 1776, the second in 1851, and the third in 1864. The fourth and present constitution was adopted in 1867. It consists of a declaration of rights, the Constitution proper, and those amendments ratified to date.

The source of all power and authority for governing the State of Maryland lies with its citizens. The Constitution's Declaration of Rights makes clear "That all Government of right originates from the People, is founded in compact only, and is instituted solely for the good of the whole; and they have, at all times, the inalienable right to alter, reform or abolish their Form of Government in such manner as they may deem expedient." (Art. 1)

While responsibility for promoting the public interest is vested in specific officers and agencies of State government, actual governing authority remains with the registered voters of Maryland. A registered voter must be eighteen years of age or older, a citizen of the United States, and a resident of Maryland thirty days prior to the date of an election.

Believing that it would be too cumbersome for all persons to participate directly in the operation of government, framers of the Constitution of 1867 followed precedent established in earlier Maryland constitutions by delegating power to elected representatives. They also continued to separate powers of government into three distinct branches which exercise certain checks and balances on each other.

The three branches of State government - executive, legislative, and judicial - act to preserve, protect, and extend the privileges and obligations provided to the citizens of Maryland by the State Constitution. All three represent the interests of the citizens of the State in their relations with other states and the federal government, and each works closely with and supplements the services of municipal and county administrations. Checks and balances provided by the Constitution of Maryland ensure a certain beneficial degree of tension and proprietorship among the three branches of State government, and each carefully guards its prerogatives. The fundamental goal of State government as a whole, however, is to serve the public interest. Through periodic elections, referenda, and amendments to the Constitution, citizens ultimately determine the policies, functions, and extent of the government of the State of Maryland.

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 Maryland Manual On-Line, 2001

April 1, 2001   
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