By DON FLETCHER
News Staff Writer
While selection of Alabama’s governor for the next four years — along with the individuals who will fill several other state and local offices — highlights the November 6 General Election in Alabama, voters will also decide whether to amend the state’s constitution to bring it more up to date.
The proposed amendments include language that more clearly defines religious freedom, addresses the issue of abortions, redefines the manner in which the University of Alabama’s Board of Trustees is composed, and provides for a new, less expensive way of filling short-term vacancies that might crop up in the state legislature.
Although, according to Alabama News Network, the state’s constitution has been amended more than 900 times and is the longest in the United States, the proposed amendments are labeled Nos. 1, 2, 3 and 4 on the ballot.
The online news source points out that amendments such as the ones to be considered in November are usually listed at the end of a ballot and are often overlooked and under-considered by voters.
“Although it is easy to treat constitutional amendments as an afterthought, it is important to understand the potential impact of a change to the state’s most significant document,” reported Tim Lennox in an April story. “Unfortunately, the language describing constitutional amendments … is often difficult to understand. Additionally, there is no description of the effects of a proposed amendment. This can be disheartening to voters taking their voice in the electoral process seriously while at the same time encouraging split-second decisions.”
According to postings on the Alabama Secretary of State website, the “Ten Commandments Amendment,” is actually is a two-parter.
First, it allows that the Ten Commandments may be displayed on public property, including schools, “so long as the display meets constitutional requirements, such as being displayed along with historical or educational items.” Second, it provides a constitutional guarantee that “a person’s religious beliefs will have no effect on his or her civil or political rights.”
Those who vote “yes” support authorization of Ten Commandments displays on public property and establishment of certain religious rights. A “no” vote does just the opposite.
Alabama’s constitution does not currently include any language directly relating to the importance of unborn life or the rights of an unborn child. Neither does it include any language that directly relates to abortion or state funding of abortions.
According to Ballotpedia, the amendment provides that, as a matter of public policy, the state will “recognize and support the importance of unborn life and the rights of unborn children, including the right to life; and to protect the rights of unborn children.” Passage would not legalize abortions or require that abortions be paid for with public money.
The November ballot’s third proposed amendment would specify that the congressional districts from which University of Alabama Board of Trustees members are appointed continue to reflect those as constituted on January 1, 2018, would remove the State Superintendent of Education from automatic membership and would delete the requirement that members vacate office following their seventieth birthday.
Passage of the final General Election amendment would provide that when a vacancy occurs in the state legislature on or after October 1 of the third year of a four-year legislative term, the seat will remain vacant until the next general election.
If the measure passes, the governor would no longer have the power to schedule a special election to fill a vacancy under these circumstances.