When you step into the ballot box this November, do you really have any idea what the Alabama state amendments mean? It can be hard to decipher who is benefitting and who is potentially being written out of their rights as an Alabama citizen.
Let us help you dissect the amendments and their potential impact on everyone in Alabama.
Vote no on Amendment 1
If you are not a United States citizen you cannot vote in a governmental election in Alabama. That rule is clearly stated in the Alabama Constitution. Only legal citizens can vote. Federal law prohibits non-citizens from voting in federal elections.
So why the need for Amendment 1, which changes the language of the law from “every” citizen to “only” certain citizens can vote? The push for Amendment 1 is largely believed to be funded by groups hoping to scare eligible voters away from the polls.
Amendment 1 would delete the word “every” before citizen and replace it with “only a” citizen. What does a simple word change mean? It could mean that protected voter rights in Alabama would disappear. The language of the amendment sounds patriotic. Of course we only want U.S. citizens to have the right to vote. That is sensible. And currently, in Alabama, U.S. citizens who have been convicted of specific felonies have also lost their right to vote. So this amendment has no impact on changing voting rights for those convicted persons.
Instead, this amendment has the potential to take away those protected voting rights of every U.S. citizen in Alabama. If you are a U.S. citizen and a resident of Alabama, under this amendment, you may not be allowed to vote in future elections. This amendment gives future politicians the right to open elections to only a certain group of citizens. It gives future politicians the ability to stop certain groups of people from voting.
Are you willing to bet that you won’t be the voter left behind in future elections? Are you willing to risk that your basic rights as a U.S. citizen, guaranteed since the nation was founded, will be stripped from you and your children? Vote no on Amendment 1. It has no impact on Alabama citizens except to risk our very rights as U.S. citizens.
Vote no on Amendment 2
Amendment 2 is wordy, long and seems like a lot of items to tackle in a single amendment. Much of the amendment cleans up loose ends and basic housekeeping issues within the state’s judicial system. Two item in particular stand out, however.
First, the amendment allows for the entire Alabama Supreme Court to appoint the court’s administrative director. That hiring choice has always been made by the chief justice. Opponents have argued that the chief justice needs to hire someone they can work well with, not someone who is pandering to the whole court to keep their job.
Second, the amendment allows judges to remain on the bench and continue to hear cases while they are under investigation. A 2020 investigation by Reuters shows that thousands of judges nationwide have escaped public accountability for misdeeds that have victimized thousands. In fact, the report shows that nine of 10 kept their jobs, including several in Alabama.
In April, 2012, Judge Les Hayes, sentenced a single mother to 496 days behind bars for failing to pay traffic tickets. The sentence was so stiff it exceeded the jail time Alabama allows for negligent homicide. Her young children were sent to foster care. One was raped. The other was physically abused.
Judges carry a heavy weight within their daily job duties. They have the means to cause severe damage within a single life or an entire community. If there is cause to investigate their actions, they should be immediately removed until those questions have been answered and the people of the community are assured that they are being served by a fair and just court. Vote no on Amendment 2.
Vote no on Amendment 3
When a judge leaves the bench, that seat is filled with a replacement until the next election. The amendment gives that hand-picked replacement two years on the bench before voters have a say.
The idea is probably to give those new judges more time in the office to become established. But these positions are intended to be elected by the people, not hand-picked by politicians who may have their own agendas to fill. Keep the judges on the ballots, vote no to Amendment 3.
Vote yes on Amendment 4
With nearly 950 amendments, the Alabama Constitution is the longest in the world. It’s not just long. It’s ugly. It’s racist. It’s cumbersome. It’s embarrassing and shameful. A lot of it has been deemed unconstitutional by federal court. The length is also due to the fact that many of the additions over the years are local laws that only apply to single municipalities.
It’s time for it to be dusted off and for the legislature to remove that archaic language, the dead provisions and unconstitutional provisions. It is not a rewrite but rather a recompiling of the document. No current existing rights would be altered or expanded. Local amendments would be listed by region rather than haphazardly throughout the document. Once the final draft is ready it would be submitted to the Alabama legislature for review and would have to be approved by voters in a ratification process.
It is 2020. It is time for Alabama to operate under a constitution that encompasses the modern direction our state is headed into, not embrace the racist, shameful ghosts of our past. Vote yes on Amendment 4.
Vote no on Amendments 5 and 6
Legislators have spent years trying to pass legislation that would give immunity to a church security team to use bodily harm against an individual on church grounds. The argument by legislators is that under current Stand Your Ground law, the defender would have to get the perceived bad guy to point their gun at them before they could shoot in order for the law to cover their actions.
This is unnecessary. Alabama’s current “Stand Your Ground” law allows a person to legally use physical force against another person under certain conditions. The law does not require the person to retreat before using physical force. The current law applies to all churches within the state of Alabama.
Not to mention, Stand Your Ground laws are inherently dangerous. They encourage individuals to shoot first and ask questions later. Constitutional additions such as Amendment 5 would not just allow but possibly encourage anyone to use deadly force when someone in a religious group perceives almost any kind of physical threat — even in cases where the use of deadly force is clearly not necessary. This amendment could easily be exploited by violent criminals to use deadly force without facing consequences.
Both amendments apply only to churches in Franklin and Lauderdale counties, respectively.
Alabama already has a Stand Your Ground law that applies to churches across the entire state. There is no need for further expansion. Vote no to Amendments 5 and 6.