Saturday, October 24, 2020

Craig Ford: This year’s ballot has 6 statewide amendments. Here’s what they do.

  Whether you choose to vote absentee this year or you decide to wait until Election Day to cast your ballot, every voter in Alabama will have the chance to vote on several statewide amendments to the Alabama Constitution.

  Because these amendments are written in “legalese” language, they can often be difficult to understand. And most people are more focused on doing their jobs and taking care of their families rather than spending their time researching these amendments and what they would do. 

  So I’d like to take a few moments to explain as honestly as possible what these amendments would do, and after each explanation, I will give my thoughts on each amendment.

  The first amendment on the ballot would “grant the right to vote to ‘only’ those U.S. citizens who meet the requirements.” 

  The state constitution already guarantees the right to vote to “every” U.S. citizen who is legally allowed to vote, and federal law requires you to be a citizen in order to be eligible to vote. All this amendment does is change the word “every” to “only.”

  In my opinion, this amendment doesn’t actually do anything. It doesn’t change the current requirements to be eligible to vote, and it doesn’t actually do anything to stop illegal immigrants and non-citizens from voting. 

  How you vote on this one is up to you. This amendment will neither help nor hurt when it comes to preventing non-citizens and illegal immigrants from voting.

  The second amendment on the ballot makes several changes to the state’s judicial system, including a change that would allow the entire Alabama Supreme Court, rather than just the Chief Justice, to appoint the Administrative Director of Courts. 

  The amendment also increases the Judicial Inquiry Commission from nine members to eleven, and allows the governor, rather than the lieutenant governor, to appoint a member of the Court of the Judiciary. 

  Most notably, the amendment removes the provision that automatically suspends a judge as soon as a complaint has been filed with the Judicial Inquiry Commission and would only allow the Court of the Judiciary to remove a judge from office.

  The business community supports this amendment, and so do I. Everyone deserves their day in court, including judges of the court. And this amendment also spreads power out among the Alabama Supreme Court Justices.

  The third amendment extends how long circuit and district judges can serve when they replace a judge who has retired, resigned, passed away, or been removed from office. Current law only allows them to serve for one year or until the end of the term of the judge they are replacing, whichever is longer. Amendment 3 would extend that limit to two years.

  I believe this is a good amendment and plan to vote yes on it. 

  Amendment 4 would allow the Alabama Legislature to “rearrange” the state constitution to remove racist and outdated language, as well as remove language that is repeated or no longer applies. It would also combine language that relates to the same county and combine language related to economic development. 

  Like many people, I am leery of letting state lawmakers revise our constitution. We have seen far too many instances of the legislature having to redo laws they previously passed because of unintended consequences and decisions that were not well thought out.

   But despite my concerns, I will vote yes on this amendment because we are long past due for removing the racist language and other parts of our constitution that no longer have any business being a part of state law. 

  The fifth and sixth amendments on the ballot have to do with matters specific to Franklin and Lauderdale Counties only and do not impact us here in Etowah. As a general rule, I never vote on local amendments that do not impact where I live. Only those voters who are impacted by the amendment should be voting on it, and the only reason these amendments will be on our ballots is because of archaic rules in our state constitution.

  Whether or not you agree with how I choose to vote on these amendments, I hope that this editorial will help you make your own informed decisions. But most of all, I hope that you will go vote! Every voice matters, and yours could make the difference in some races, including on these amendments. 

  About the author: Craig Ford is the owner of Ford Insurance and the Gadsden Messenger. He represented Etowah County in the Alabama House of Representatives for 18 years.

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