Voters can erase racist wording in Alabama Constitution

Nov 1, 2022, 1:17 AM | Updated: 1:48 pm
A copy of the proposed constitution of Alabama of 2022 is seen at the statehouse in Montgomery, Ala...

A copy of the proposed constitution of Alabama of 2022 is seen at the statehouse in Montgomery, Ala., on Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2022. Alabama voters on Nov. 8 will vote whether to ratify a recompiled Alabama Constitution that strips racist language and deleted repealed and redundant sections. The state's governing document will remain the longest in the United States at over 300,000 words. (AP Photo/Kim Chandler)

(AP Photo/Kim Chandler)

MONTGOMERY, Ala (AP) — The Alabama Constitution, approved in 1901 to entrench white supremacy, still has language regarding segregated schools, poll taxes and bans on interracial marriage.

But a seismic change could be in store. Alabama voters on Nov. 8 will decide whether to ratify a new constitution that strips out the Jim Crow-era language. It would also reorganize the unwieldy governing document, which has been amended 978 times and tops over 400,000 words. The Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama says the size makes it the longest such document in the world.

Voters in 2020 authorized state officials and lawmakers to cut the racist language that lingers from the era of racial segregation. That work, finally completed, now goes back before voters to ratify the Alabama Constitution of 2022.

Proponents say the changes that will demonstrate Alabama is a different place today — and streamline the sprawling constitution to be more user-friendly.

“This is an effort to show, not only the rest of the country, but the world who we are today,” said state Rep. Merika Coleman, one of the lawmakers who led the bipartisan effort.

However, it does not make the policy changes that some reformers have sought — such as giving counties more home rule and removing tax earmarks, which dedicate taxes to a specific program or purpose.

To approve the measure, voters must vote ‘Yes’ on the question asking whether to ratify the “Constitution of Alabama of 2022. ” The ratification question will appear on the ballot after the list of candidates for office. There is also a separate amendment, Amendment 10, to authorize the code commissioner to renumber and nest the newest amendments within the Constitution.

The framers of the 1901 constitution were direct about their goal to maintain a government controlled by whites.

“The new constitution eliminates the ignorant negro vote, and places the control of our government where God Almighty intended it should be — with the Anglo-Saxon race,” John Knox, president of the constitutional convention, said in a speech urging voters to ratify the document.

The Alabama Constitution has language allowing parents to opt for students to “attend schools provided for their own race” and sections about poll taxes, bans on interracial marriage and a convict labor system in which Black Alabamians, often arbitrarily arrested, were forced to work in mines and labor camps. The provisions were long ago invalidated by court rulings or later amendments, but the language remains in the state’s government document.

Alabama has seen efforts previously to invalidate racist language, but this goes further, said Othni Lathram, the director of the Legislative Services Agency.

For example, voters in 2000 approved an amendment repealing an unenforceable interracial marriage ban — although 40% of voters voted against the repeal — but the language about the ban remains in the Constitution and “you have to make it to the Amendment 667 to know that it’s been repealed,” he said.

“With the recompilation, it completely goes away,” he said.

The reorganization effort is designed to make the document more user-friendly, Lathram said. Repealed provisions will be removed and the nearly 1,000 amendments will be incorporated into the document. Amendments related to local areas will be organized by county so they can be more easily found.

Tom Spencer, a senior research associate at Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama, said the proposal will strip remaining racist language. However, it will continue the current structure that centralizes power in the Legislature, and will not change the state’s tax structure.

The Alabama Constitution of 1901 is currently 420,000 words. The new Constitution would shrink slightly to 373,274 words, but that is three times more words than the next-longest state constitution – Texas, according to an analysis from the PARCA.

“Power will still be concentrated in the Legislature and local matters, like whether counties can regulate golf carts on public roads, will continue to clutter the state constitution … And it will still be the world’s longest constitution. Even with the organizational fixes, the document is a confusing mess,” Spencer wrote.

The state committee that worked on the recompilation and the lawmakers who approved it only had a narrow charge to delete racist or repeated language and to reorganize, according to Coleman. However, she is hopeful the ratification will be approved.

___

Learn more about the issues and factors at play in the midterms at https://apnews.com/hub/explaining-the-elections. And follow the AP’s election coverage of the 2022 elections at https://apnews.com/hub/2022-midterm-elections.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

FILE - In this Oct. 10, 2018, file photo Amazon Prime boxes are loaded on a cart for delivery in Ne...
Haleluya Hadero, Associated Press

Amazon says it had its biggest Thanksgiving shopping weekend

Amazon said Wednesday it had its biggest ever Thanksgiving holiday shopping weekend, aided by a record number of consumers looking for deals online amid high inflation.
17 hours ago
A sign at Twitter headquarters is shown in San Francisco, Friday, Nov. 18, 2022. (AP Photo/Jeff Chi...
David Klepper, Associated Press

Twitter ends enforcement of COVID misinformation policy

Twitter will no longer enforce its policy against COVID-19 misinformation, raising concerns among public health experts and social media researchers that the change could have serious consequences if it discourages vaccination and other efforts to combat the still-spreading virus. Eagle-eyed users spotted the change Monday night, noting that a one-sentence update had been made to […]
17 hours ago
Associated Press

Police called to suburban Chicago home find 5 people dead

BUFFALO GROVE, Ill. (AP) — Five people have been found dead at a home in suburban Chicago in what police said Wednesday was a likely “domestic-related incident.” The Buffalo Grove Police Department said officers were sent around 11 a.m. to a single-family residence following a call for a wellbeing check on an adult female. The […]
17 hours ago
FILE - U.S. $100 bills are seen on July 14, 2022, in Marple Township, Pa. Giving Tuesday raised $3....
Associated Press

GivingTuesday raises $3.1B for charities in tough economy

NEW YORK (AP) — GivingTuesday raised a record $3.1 billion in 24 hours for charitable causes in the U.S. earlier this week, as the event that started as a hashtag in 2012 celebrated its 10th anniversary and its status as a staple of fundraising for nonprofits, the group’s leader said Wednesday. Despite the difficult economic […]
17 hours ago
FILE - Travis Scott performs at Day 1 of the Astroworld Music Festival at NRG Park on Nov. 5, 2021,...
Associated Press

Task force unveils improvements in wake of Astroworld show

HOUSTON (AP) — After last year’s deadly Astroworld music festival in Houston, questions were raised about whether there was sufficient coordination and communication among officials, public safety agencies and promoters in planning the event and implementing an emergency response when it turned tragic. A task force this week unveiled a new agreement its members said […]
17 hours ago
Associated Press

Bankman-Fried: Did not ‘knowingly’ misuse FTX client’s funds

NEW YORK (AP) — The former CEO of the failed cryptocurrency exchange FTX said Wednesday that he did not ‘knowingly” misuse customers’ funds, and claimed he believes his millions of angry customers will eventually be made whole. The comments from Sam Bankman-Fried came during an interview with Andrew Ross Sorkin at a conference put on […]
17 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

SHIBA WA...

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Work at Zum Services...

Seattle Public Schools announces three-year contract with Zum

Seattle Public Schools just announced a three-year contract with a brand-new company to the Pacific Northwest to assist with their student transportation: Zum.
Swedish Cyberknife 900x506...

June is Men’s Health Month: Here’s Why It’s Important To Speak About Your Health

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, men in the United States, on average, die five years earlier than women.
Voters can erase racist wording in Alabama Constitution