In November, Alabama voters will be asked to approve an updated and recompiled state constitution, titled the Alabama Constitution of 2022. Voters will also decide a ballot measure that would authorize the Code Commissioner to incorporate constitutional amendments that are approved at the elections on May 24 and November 8 into the Alabama Constitution of 2022 if voters approve the new constitution.
On March 17, the Alabama State Legislature referred the constitutional amendment to the ballot. The ballot measure would also provide that court decisions relating to provisions of the Constitution of Alabama of 1901 remain valid in the Alabama Constitution of 2022 as long as the relevant sections have not been substantively changed in the new constitution.
The proposed Constitution of Alabama 2022 was drafted following voter approval of Amendment 4 in 2020. Amendment 4 authorized the Alabama State Legislature—during the 2022 regular state legislative session—to recompile the Alabama Constitution and provide for its ratification. Voters approved Amendment 4 by a vote of 67% to 33%. Amendment 4 provided for the Alabama Constitution to be updated in the following ways, making no other substantive changes:
*arranging it in proper articles, parts, and sections;
*removing all racist language;
*deleting duplicative and repealed provisions;
*consolidating provisions regarding economic development; and
*arranging all local amendments by county of application.
An example of language that was set to be removed includes Section 256 of Article XIV, which states, “Separate schools shall be provided for white and colored children, and no child of either race shall be permitted to attend a school of the other race.”
Alabama has had six constitutions, the first of which was adopted in 1819. Other constitutions include those from the years 1861, 1865, 1868, and 1875. The current constitution of the state is the Alabama Constitution of 1901. As of the beginning of 2021, the current constitution had been amended 977 times, including constitutional amendments of local applicability – amendments that affect a single county but are located in the state constitution.
The average length of a state constitution is about 39,000 words (compared to 7,591 words for the U.S. Constitution including its amendments). The longest state governing document is the Alabama Constitution, which has approximately 389,000 words. That document is also the most amended state constitution in the United States. The average state constitution has been amended about 115 times. The oldest state constitution still in effect is the Massachusetts Constitution, which took effect in 1780. The newest is the Rhode Island Constitution, which was ratified by voters in 1986 after a constitutional convention was held. The Rhode Island question proposed deleting superseded language and reorganizing the state’s 1843 Constitution. The Georgia Constitution is the next youngest and was ratified in 1983.
In the 20-year period from 2000 to 2020, total of 88 measures appeared on the statewide ballot in Alabama, of which, 69 were approved (78.41%), and 22 were defeated (21.59%).
As of March 22, 2022, eight statewide ballot measures were certified for the 2022 ballot in Alabama. Six measures will be on the November 8 ballot. One measure will be on the May 24 ballot. The state legislature may refer additional measures to the 2022 ballot during the 2022 legislative session, which was set to run until April 7, 2022. Both houses of the Alabama State Legislature are required to pass a proposed constitutional amendment by a three-fifths (60%) supermajority vote in order to refer it to the statewide ballot. If the amendment is approved by a simple majority of voters, it becomes part of the state constitution.