We are less than two weeks away from the election, and allegedly there are still like five “undecided” voters out there. Considering how partisan our nation has become, it is hard to believe there is anyone left who hasn’t picked his or her team or ticket, guys or gals.
But then again, maybe they are like me, and they are so sick of both the red and the blue, the left and the right, and all of the sniping and nastiness we endure on a daily basis between the two “sides,” they are simply “undecided” if they should vote at all.
Judging by the record number of early voting, though, perhaps they are not as disillusioned as I am.
And I will vote, as it is our greatest civic duty, but just knowing roughly half the country is going to be unhappy no matter who wins, I just don’t see much of anything changing — as far as the state of our political discourse goes anyway.
All of the vitriol will still be there. And that makes me sad.
But, thankfully, there is always one section of the ballot that doesn’t get people worked up at all. In fact, if they vote before their afternoon naps, they could fall asleep as they are trying to fill it out. And that section would be our statewide amendments, and there are six up for consideration this year.
Some of these amendments are important, and some are completely pointless.
But in any case, they are all written as if a man from the 1800s wearing a powdered wig and pantaloons penned them on a scroll using a quill. (But then somehow said man used a DeLorean with a flux capacitor to get them on the 2020 ballot.)
Many people accidentally leave their ancient language/legalese decoder rings at home, so they just give up and leave them blank — which is better than voting YES or NO on something you don’t understand.
But we should all do our best to do our decoding of the six statewide amendments before heading to the polls this year. And I say, let’s do it now! (Drinking strong coffee or taking “truck stop speed” before reading this column is advised.)
This should be known as the “Complete and Total Waste of Time and Ink Amendment.” Currently, the Alabama Constitution says “every” U.S. citizen has the right to vote. This would change “every” to “only,” which changes nothing at all since you still have to be a U.S. citizen no matter what word is in front of that.
Even the state senator who originally sponsored this, Del Marsh, R-Anniston, said non-citizen voting is a non-issue, but it would send a “message to Washington.”
It really doesn’t matter how you vote on this because it will change absolutely nothing. But maybe, if we vote NO, it will send a “message to Montgomery” that we would rather our state legislators work on things that actually matter, like mental health, prisons, health care, infrastructure and our pathetic not-so-open records laws.
In a nutshell, this affects the state’s court system, and on its surface, it seems to just be making administrative and procedural changes in order to make it run more efficiently. According to proponents, a group of legislators and court officials spent nearly two years working on how to better the current system and this amendment is what they came up with.
The most dramatic change would be how the administrative director of courts is chosen. Currently, the chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court chooses this position, but since the CJ position changes pretty often, there is a lot of turnover.
This amendment would allow the entire court to choose the director from three candidates chosen by a nominating board of judges, attorneys and clerks, and they would be appointed for a 10-year term. It seems like continuity in this position would be better than constant turnover. And too, if a board has to choose the candidates and all of the Supremes have to come to a consensus on who will fill it, it seems like both a better vetting and selection process overall.
It would also add two members to the Judicial Inquiry Commission and change some of the procedures with it, including how judges accused of misconduct can be removed.
This amendment would change the length of the terms of appointed circuit and district court judges. These judges are appointed by the governor when an elected judge retires, dies, resigns or leaves office for whatever reason before the end of his or her term.
Right now, these appointments last one year or the remainder of the original judge’s term, whichever is longer. This would change it to two years before they would have to face reelection.
It seems as if these judges never face much opposition once they are appointed anyway, so I am not sure changing the length would make that much of a difference.
But there has always been some grousing that many judges purposefully retire or resign before their terms end so they can get favorable appointments from the governor and then “the chosen one” almost always runs unopposed because no one wants to run against a sitting judge. Which takes this process out of the hands of the electorate and makes it political, which is never good. This amendment would not change that “practice.”
But proponents say it would simply give the appointed judge more time to get the lay of the land and make the terms a little more consistent in length.
This would remove “racist” and “segregationist” language from the Alabama Constitution.
Many would be surprised to know there is still language in our state constitution saying public education should be segregated, interracial marriage should be outlawed, literacy tests can be given in order to register to vote and other similarly horrible practices from the ugliest part of our past.
It hasn’t been removed from the Alabama Constitution because amendments to the U.S. Constitution, U.S. Supreme Court decisions and other federal laws all supersede Alabama’s constitutional authority, and they make all of these practices illegal and these parts of the state constitution invalid anyway.
But still having that kind of language present is completely unacceptable.
Similar amendments have tried to do this before, but they have gotten tied to other things, which made them ultimately fail.
Once the language is removed, the revised constitution would have to be approved in a future election with another statewide amendment.
This one is easy — vote yes.
Amendments 5 and 6
These pertain to the “stand your ground” laws in Lauderdale and Franklin counties only. I know, I know, why should we be voting on these in Mobile and Baldwin counties?
These would have only appeared on the ballots in these counties, but since one House member voted against these, they had to be put on the statewide ballot. Other similar measures that didn’t have any opposition will appear on county-specific ballots in a few other counties across the state.
All of these measures essentially say if someone feels threatened in their house of worship they can use deadly force to protect themselves.
Most legal folks say Alabama’s “stand your ground” laws already extend to houses of worship, so practically speaking, it doesn’t really change anything.
But I guess it “sends a message,” which seems to be the most popular use of statewide amendments.
I wonder why the Alabama Constitution is so long? Hmmmmmm.
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