Alabama’s Constitutional Amendments 2020: Amendment Four, Cleaning up the Constitution

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – Alabama voters will see six different amendments on the ballot on election day in November.

The description for Amendment Four may sound confusing and may even seem like it holds more power than it does.

In reality, it is an effort by legislators to streamline, but not overwrite, the state constitution.

What voters will see as the official description for Amendment Four is:

“Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of Alabama of 1901, to authorize the Legislature to recompile the Alabama Constitution and submit it during the 2022 Regular Session, and provide a process for its ratification by the voters of this state.”

Alabama has one of the longest constitutions in the world because it has not been purged since 1901. That means hundreds of amendments that have been written into law.

“I think that number now is close to 100,000 amendments,” said State House Speaker Mac McCutcheon.

According to Speaker McCutcheon, while old articles may have been declared null and void when a new law overwrote them, they were never taken out of the Constitution.

“They can take out, quote, ‘racist language.’ They can take out provisions that are deemed ‘dead letter,'” said Political Analyst Jess Brown.

Alabama’s Constitution still includes laws on school segregation and rules against interracial marriage. Brown said ‘dead letter’ can mean any law that is redundant or was declared invalid in the past, is now fair game to be removed from the Constitution.

The decision to move this plan forward was voted on unanimously by the state legislature.

“It’s not a Democrat vs. Republican issue, this is an issue that crosses the aisle and many people are seeing a need for change,” Speaker McCutcheon said.

Brown emphasized this amendment is not a free-for-all for legislators.

“The safety valve here is the legislature does not get to write a new state constitution. If they move beyond editorial clean up and they start making changes that start having a huge substantive effect, the voters can tell them no,” Brown said.

Speaker McCutcheon said the goal for legislators is to bring the state’s constitution into the 21st century.

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