Alabamians clearly want to vote
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Montgomery Advertiser
Editorial
April 2, 2008

Maybe most Alabamians want to see a constitutional convention held to draft a new constitution to replace the 1901 document that still forms the organic body of law for our state. Maybe they don't.

What they plainly do want, however, is the chance to decide whether to hold a convention. A new statewide survey indicates widespread support for holding an election on the convention question. The survey shows levels of support throughout a broad demographic range of Alabamians that, if cited as election results, would be seen as landslides.

So what stands in the way of a vote of the people? It's the Alabama Legislature, which has to pass a bill establishing a referendum on the question. There is no other way for it to happen, no matter how much Alabamians might wish it.

There should be no doubt about what the measure now languishing in the Rules committees of both houses would and would not do. All it does is set an election in which Alabamians would vote, yes or no, on whether to hold a constitutional convention.

If a majority votes no, then the matter is decided right there. That's the end of it.

If a majority votes yes, then a detailed mechanism for electing delegates and holding the convention becomes operative. Voters would choose the persons they want to take on the task of drafting a new constitution to replace the flawed document under which Alabama has labored for more than a century.

After the new constitution is drafted, the people would speak again, this time in a ratification election in which they would vote to accept or reject the new constitution.

The key decisions are made by the people of Alabama, which is as it should be.

But sadly that is the part that many legislators don't like. The 1901 Constitution centers a tremendous degree of authority in the Legislature, and legislators do like that. Opening the door to a new constitution also means opening the door to potentially reduced authority, and some lawmakers simply don't want to give up any of the outsized influence they now hold.

Nevertheless, Alabamians clearly want the chance to decide for themselves. The survey, conducted by the well respected Capital Survey Research Center, finds that 63.9 percent favor having a vote on whether to hold a constitutional convention. Less than a quarter - 24.4 percent - oppose holding a vote.

The measure is supported by 61.8 percent of white respondents and 74.5 percent of black respondents.

Support crosses lines of political affiliation as well - 55.3 percent among respondents identifying themselves as Republicans, 70.5 percent among Democrats and 66.7 percent among independents.

A convention vote is favored by 67.4 percent of men and 61.1 percent of women. Among Alabamians 22 years of age or older, the support is overwhelming - 70.2 percent for those 22-34, 65.4 percent among those 35-45, 62.6 percent among those 46-55, 70.7 percent among those 56-65 and 58.9 percent among those 65 and older.

What further evidence of the desires of the people could legislators possibly need?

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