State needs constitution bill

Published 5:12 pm Wednesday, November 14, 2007

By Staff
One hundred six years ago, Alabama voters approved a new constitution 108,613 to 81,734, a margin of almost 27,000.
Ten days later, Gov. W.D. Jelks pronounced the constitution ratified. “I, THEREFORE, Proclaim that the said new Constitution so ratified shall go into effect as the Constitution of the State of Alabama on Thursday, it being the twenty-eighth day of November, 1901, and shall thenceforth be binding and obligatory as such upon the people of this State.”
Binding, indeed. As in, constricting. The grievously flawed 1901 Constitution for decades denied hundreds of thousands of blacks and poor whites their right to vote. It still concentrates power in Montgomery, stripping county governments of the full power they need to run their own affairs. It empowers special interests that, with their control of the Legislature, have embedded in the constitution lucrative tax exemptions and earmarks for themselves while starving the state's coffers for schools, services and roads.
Why would Alabama voters, especially black voters, approve such a document? They didn't, at least not of their own volition. Instead, supporters of the new constitution, who campaigned openly on a platform of white supremacy and honest elections because they were tired of stealing elections, stole the election. “They did so in Alabama's Black Belt, long the site of voter fraud, by "voting the Negro,” to use the terminology of the time.
… When the Legislature goes into session in February, it should pass a bill that would let the people decide - in an honest election - whether they want a convention of their fellow citizens to write a new fundamental charter for Alabama.
It won't make up for 106 years of constitution-fueled racial injustice, shabby treatment of the poor and ill, wretchedly funded schools and throttled local governments, all for the benefit of an oligarchy of the deep-pocketed. But letting the people vote would be a start toward undoing the massive fraud of Nov. 11, 1901.
The Birmingham News