Breaking it Down

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 28, 2004

There's a lot more to voting than what voters may be aware of.

Confusion could set in, especially for first time voters.

Besides marking their ballot for President on Nov. 2, voters across the state will also cast their vote for several county elections in addition to eight statewide amendments. Of those amendments, one applies to Crenshaw County.

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Amendment 6 proposes an amendment to the Constitution of Alabama of 1901, to repeal, effective beginning the next term of office of the Judge of Probate of Crenshaw County, Constitutional Amendment No. 496, which provides for the judge of probate to receive the same salary as the district judge in the county.

Reading the amendments such as the one above could be difficult to a majority of the voters. Each amendment on the ballot is worded this way and it may take time, which most voters don't have on Election Day, to break them down. With some, a dictionary may be the voters' only answer.

"The wording is specified in the act that the legislature passes," Secretary of States Office staff member Judy Wagnon said.

After careful review, Amendment 6 can easily be summed up.

Crenshaw County Probate Judge Jim Perdue currently earns an annual salary of $113,000. By passing the amendment or "repealing," which is defined as abolishing an amendment, which in this case is Amendment 6, the probate judge's salary would be cut by approximately 40 percent or $45,200.

By voting against the proposal, the probate judge's salary would remain the same, which would be equal to District Court Judge Tom Sport's salary.

Prior to 1989, the probate judge in Crenshaw County was paid on a fee basis, before Amendment 496 was passed by the voters of Crenshaw County, which set the salary of the probate judge equal to that of the district court judge. It has been in effect since.

Amendment 496 is similar to several Amendments throughout the Constitution of Alabama, including Amendment 609, which applies to the judge of probate of Marengo County's compensation. The amendment reads that the judge of probate of Marengo County shall receive compensation in the form of an annual salary, which shall be equal to 90 percent of the annual salary compensation paid by the state of the district court judge of the county. The salary shall be paid in lieu of all other fees, allowances and percentages heretofore provided by law and shall be paid in equal monthly installment out of the general fund of the county treasurer.

Some voters may wonder why it is a statewide amendment.

"If it is a local amendment and the entire local delegation does not agree to it, if one member of the local delegation does not sign off on the amendment and agree to have it placed on the ballot as a local amendment, then it has to be placed on the ballot as a statewide amendment for all of the voters to make a decision on," Wagnon concluded.