Alabama voters have passed a new state Constitution of 2022.
The rewrite of the state constitution will have two key impacts on the state’s governing text: It reorganizes local amendments, and it strips out some of the racist language of its predecessor.
“Now we have the opportunity to right some of the wrong, so we get a chance to remove the racist language and also racist impact, such as the poll taxes and the portion on indentured servitude,” said Sen. Merika Coleman, who sponsored the effort, Tuesday night.
See the outcomes of Alabama’s 2022 ballot initiatives here.
The new constitution replaces its predecessor, ratified in 1901. Alabama is one of several states in recent years to update old founding texts and remove references to slavery, involuntary servitude and plantations.
The new constitution removes racist language in three sections, pertaining to:
- involuntary servitude as punishment,
- an allowance for segregated schools,
- and an allotment of poll tax money.
Section 256 in the Constitution of 1901 required “separate schools for white and colored children.” After Brown v. Board of Education, Alabama passed an amendment that kept a path open for segregated schooling — an amendment that remained on the books, even as schools slowly began to integrate.
The bipartisan effort to craft a new constitution started in 2019, was spearheaded by Coleman and received unanimous support from the state Legislature.
The new constitution also removes repealed sections, such as section 102 of the 1901 constitution, which outlawed interracial marriage and was formally repealed in 2000. Coleman said that Alabama’s 1901 constitution was rooted in white supremacy and intended to disenfranchise Black voters, communities of color, women and residents in poverty.
“We get to get rid of measures that have been – as it relates to racism and those kinds of things – remove those things that have already been stricken down from the federal and especially by federal case law,” Coleman said.
The constitution also organizes its nearly 1,000 amendments into categories, like branches of government or economic development. Local amendments will be organized by county.
It’s still a really long state constitution (even with a reduction of 47,000 words, it’s still three times longer than the next-longest state constitution).
The ratification of the new document appeared at the top of the amendments on the ballot, but was a companion to amendment 10, which could not pass if the recompilation didn’t. The amendment provides that any new amendments will be properly organized in accordance with the new constitution.
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