Constitute: The world’s constitutions to read, search, and compare

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Date

2014-07-07

Authors

Elkins, Zachary
Ginsburg, Tom
Melton, James
Shaffer, Robert
Sequeda, Juan
Miranker, Daniel

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Abstract

Constitutional design and redesign is constant. Over the last 200 years, countries have replaced their constitutions an average of every 19 years and some have amended them almost yearly. A basic problem in the drafting of these documents is the search and analysis of model text deployed in other jurisdictions. Traditionally, this process has been ad hoc and the results suboptimal. As a result, drafters generally lack systematic information about the institutional options and choices available to them. In order to address this informational need, the investigators developed a web application, Constitute [online at http://www.constituteproject.org], with the use of semantic technologies. Constitute provides searchable access to the world’s constitutions using the conceptualization, texts, and data developed by the Comparative Constitutions Project. An OWL ontology represents 330 ‘‘topics’’ – e.g. right to health – with which the investigators have tagged relevant provisions of nearly all constitutions in force as of September of 2013. The tagged texts were then converted to an RDF representation using R2RML mappings and Capsenta’s Ultrawrap. The portal implements semantic search features to allow constitutional drafters to read, search, and compare the world’s constitutions. The goal of the project is to improve the efficiency and systemization of constitutional design and, thus, to support the independence and self-reliance of constitutional drafters.

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