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Opinion | An opportunity to clean up the Alabama Constitution

The need for a revision to Alabama’s Constitution has been long recognized.

The Alabama Constitution

Since it was written in 1901, the current Alabama Constitution has been amended almost 1000 times, making it by far the world’s longest constitution. The amendments have also riddled the Constitution with redundancies, creating a maze of words known to befuddle even legal scholars. In addition, Alabama’s Constitution is peppered throughout with language and provisions, e.g., poll taxes, that reflect the racist intent of those who originally wrote it. While much of this language has been declared illegal and voided by twentieth century court rulings, it is still in the document and has been pointed to by other states when competing with Alabama for economic growth.

The need for a revision to Alabama’s Constitution has been long recognized and was confirmed by the Legislature in 2019 when it unanimously agreed to give the people of Alabama an opportunity to approve an amendment for constitutional reform, which they did. Since then, the Legislature worked with the non-partisan Legislative Services Agency (LSA) to create a draft that cleans up and consolidates the document and puts it in a logical structure that is easier for all to understand. Earlier this year the Legislature unanimously supported and Governor Kay Ivey approved the revised document. This document, if approved by the voters, will be called the Alabama Constitution of 2022. It will not make any substantive changes to how government functions in Alabama. However, it will remove all duplication, eliminate all now-illegal racist language and provisions, arrange all local amendments by county of application, and make the Constitution far more easily understood by all citizens of the state.  

The proposed updates can be found on the website of the Secretary of State at www.sos.state.al.us and LSA at www.legislature.state.al.us/lsa

Wayne Flynt, Professor Emeritus, History, Auburn University says “The unanimous support of our state lawmakers, on both sides of the aisle has been a key factor in paving the way for our state’s much-needed constitutional updates. These steps will bring clarity to the document, making it easier for all of us to understand. Our state’s economic development leaders also believe the revisions will help the state attract more business opportunities.”

State Representative Merika Coleman (D), who sponsored the original legislation, said that adopting the Constitution of 2022 would send “a message out about who we are. It is important for us to let folks know we are a 21st century Alabama, that we’re not the same Alabama of 1901 that didn’t want Black and white folks to get married, that didn’t think that Black and white children should go to school together.”

House Speaker Mac McCutcheon (R) said “For several years, we’ve been working on cleaning up the Constitution and the wording in it, and this will move us forward with helping to accomplish that. There is some racist terminology in there and this is going to address all of that.”

The wording on the ballot for the ratification of the revised Alabama constitution will read: “Proposing adoption of the Constitution of Alabama of 2022, which is a recompilation of the Constitution of Alabama of 1901, prepared in accordance with Amendment 951, arranging the constitution in proper articles, parts and sections, removing racist language, deleting duplicated and repealed provisions, consolidating provisions regarding economic development, arranging all local amendments by county of application and making no other changes.”

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On November 8, vote “Yes” on the adoption of the Constitution of Alabama of 2022.

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