Outdated constitution needs to be rewritten

Published 4:37 pm Tuesday, October 30, 2012

On next week’s ballot, Alabama voters will have to decide on 11 possible amendments to the state’s constitution.

Most of those amendments will impact the entire state, but some of them are more limited in scope.

Of the 11 amendments, three only affect one county or city: Amendment 3 relates to Baldwin County, Amendment 5 is for the City of Prichard, and Amendment 11 only pertains to Lawrence County.

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Why is a local issue being decided by voters of the entire state?

The problem stems from a lack of home rule by local governments.

When the Alabama Constitution was ratified in 1901, legislative power was given solely to the state legislature.

Therefore, when a county wants to change something within its borders (in the case of this election: define a landmark district, absorb one water and sewer board into another, and outline its jurisdiction), it has to go before the state legislature, and sometimes before all the voters of Alabama, before the state constitution can be amended.

As a result, our state’s constitution is more than 340,000 words long, which is 40 times longer than the U.S. Constitution, and contains more than 850 amendments.

When some 70 percent of those amendments only relate to one city or county, it becomes clear that a new constitution is needed, but that movement has not yet gained enough momentum to come to the forefront of the state’s attention.

As voters in Butler County, we have no stake in what happens in Mobile, Baldwin, and Lawrence counties.

Why should we vote on their issues?

Changing the way the system works is a long-term process, but the more immediate issue is the upcoming election.

Casting a vote for or against something that doesn’t affect us, especially when we have no background information on the issue, would be irresponsible, and we ask those going to the polls to consider abstaining from voting on Amendments 3, 5 and 11.