The Alabama Constitution is the world’s longest currently in use.
It is 12 times longer than the average state constitution and 44 times longer than the U.S. Constitution. With well over 900 amendments and counting, it’s also the nation’s most amended constitution.
Here we go again
On Nov. 3, Alabama voters will be asked to amend it yet again.
Statewide Amendments 1, 5 and 6, and local Amendment 1 (Limestone County)
Voters statewide will decide the fates of six proposed constitutional amendments, and Limestone County voters will also vote up or down on one local amendment. Three of the statewide amendments and the Limestone County amendment serve no good purpose.
They reiterate what is already the law and merely add to the state’s ridiculously long and cumbersome governing document.
Statewide Amendment 1 provides “that only a citizen of the United States has the right to vote.” This is already the law and is in little danger of changing, at least in Alabama, no matter what happens in other states.
And if federal law did change or, for some reason, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled differently, that would override any provision of state constitutions, Alabama’s included.
The sponsor of the amendment, state Sen. Del Marsh, R-Anniston, knows this, but he believes the amendment “sends a message to Washington.”
If Marsh wants to send a message, we recommend he write a letter, not amend the state constitution.
Statewide Amendment 1 is nothing more than a political stunt with no real force of law. We therefore recommend voting “no” on statewide Amendment 1.
Statewide Amendments 5 and 6 apply only to Franklin and Lauderdale counties, but are on the statewide ballot because one Alabama House member voted against them.
Both amendments, along with Limestone County’s local amendment, specify that church members in those counties can use deadly force if they feel threatened in their places of worship.
But these amendments, like statewide Amendment 1, are redundant. State law already provides that people can use deadly force in self defense or the defense of others. The state’s “stand your ground” law already applies to churches.
Normally, in the interest of local control and home rule, we would recommend that voters outside Franklin and Lauderdale counties abstain from voting on Amendments 5 and 6. In this case, however, where the amendments do nothing but make the state constitution longer, we recommend voters everywhere vote “no.”
Similarly, we recommend Limestone County voters vote “no” on local Amendment 1.
Statewide Amendments 2 and 3
Statewide Amendment 2, proposed by state Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, would change the administration and oversight of the state’s court system.
It would, for example, give the entire state Supreme Court responsibility for appointing the administrator of courts, rather than just the chief justice. It would also provide that county district courts no longer must hold city court in towns of fewer than 1,000 people, give the power to remove judges solely to the Court of the Judiciary, increase the number of Court of the Judiciary members from nine to 11, and have one of its members appointed by the governor rather than the lieutenant governor.
Statewide Amendment 3 would extend the time appointed circuit and district court judges could fill a vacancy before facing election, letting them serve at least two years before they must run for election.
Both of these amendments would help increase stability and decrease turnover in a state judicial system that could use some stability.
We recommend voting “yes” on statewide Amendments 2 and 3.
Statewide Amendment 4
Statewide Amendment 4 would authorize the Legislature to go through the state constitution and remove outdated and racist language. Voters would then get to vote up or down on the state’s revised language in a subsequent referendum.
Getting rid of the racist language in Alabama’s 1901 constitution is long overdue, and this is the best opportunity Alabama voters have yet had to do so.
We recommend voting “yes” on statewide Amendment 4.
This article was published as an editorial by The Decatur Daily.