a pig in a poke;
voters will notice
Many Houston County voters have already cast their ballots in the Nov. 3 general election, taking advantage of a temporary change in absentee voting rules in light of the coronavirus epidemic by either mailing their ballots or voting in person at the Circuit Clerk’s office at the Houston County Courthouse.
On the front of the ballot are the races for public office; on the back are seven constitutional amendments — six with statewide application and one that relates only to Houston County, adding a requirement that a probate judge must also be an attorney.
Then there is a puzzling question:
Do you favor the adoption of Act 2020-191 of the 2020 Session of the Alabama Legislature? Yes or no?
It’s bad enough that picayune changes and many local acts require an amendment to the state constitution, and that since 1901 Alabama voters have approved 948 and turned back countless others. It’s bad enough that when those proposed amendments get to the ballot, they’re usually written in legalese, leaving many voters without a clear understanding of what’s being asked. It’s bad enough that this practice leaves Alabama with the longest constitution in the world.
But to expect voters to make an informed decision on a question listed only by an Act number is beyond the pale.
Whether by oversight or design, the ballot question is written exactly as the legislation prescribes:
“… The election shall be held in conjunction with the 2020 general election. The question shall be "Do you favor the adoption of Act ___ of the ___Session of the Alabama Legislature? YES NO.”
That’s unfortunate, because Act 2020-191 of the 2020 Session of the Alabama Legislature would provide a much-needed stream of revenue for emergency medical services in Houston County by adding a $5 fee to motor vehicle tags and renewals to be distributed among volunteer and municipal emergency services.
If the lack of description is an error, state officials should reprint the ballots if time allows, and otherwise do everything possible to inform voters of the purpose of the act, including large signs with the pertinent description of the act posted in every polling place in Houston County.
This subterfuge appears to be either a boneheaded mistake or a deliberate obfuscation. Either way, it dooms the measure; Alabamians surely won’t buy a pig in a poke, even if lawmakers who vote on bills without reading them through will.
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