The ALAware project seeks to provide citizens of Alabama an easier, more user-friendly way to navigate their state’s constitution.
THE GOAL? Citizens will gain understanding of the length and content of the constitution so that a meaningful conversation can be held about how to affect reform.
WHY? At 827 amendments in length, it would take 28 hours to read the entire document out loud. The document is 1,200 pages long. Why, though, is this a problem? I offer two definitions of a constitution:
1) A constitution is the framework for the organization of a government and for the relationship of that government with the sections, citizens, and people within the state.
2) The basic principles and laws of a nation, state, or social group that determine the powers and duties of the government and guarantee certain rights to the people in it.
WHAT DOES IT LOOK LIKE? The Alabama state constitution prohibits home rule, so approximately 70 percent of the amendments handle only problems in one county. For example, Amendment 351 provided for Mobile County to control mosquitoes and rodents. This local issue was discussed in regular session in Montgomery, thus using taxpayer money from the whole state, when the issue only pertained to Mobile.
Additionally, ten amendments state that “no person elected or appointed sheriff/official may assume a supernumerary office after the effective date of this amendment” and outline the guidelines for the prohibition. These amendments could easily be combined into one and simply list all of the counties the amendment applies to, or if home rule were granted, wouldn’t be an issue at all.
ALAware invites you to peruse the constitution for yourself and read the articles or the amendments for your county. Become an informed member of the conversation of constitutional reform.
ALAware is a graduate project in the Community Journalism Master’s Program at the University of Alabama.