Outcomes like this give me some hope for the future of our republic. “Some” is the operative word, as only one-third of voters did their jobs by turning out. I would be much more confident if a much larger number of voters had participated.
Alabama voters have another job to do Tuesday. The folks running Goat Hill in Montgomery have cleverly avoided any danger to their jobs by telling us that Alabama needs to raid its rainy-day fund of oil-and-gas royalties to keep government going. They have frightened us into choosing between letting out thousands of criminals to prey on us if we do not keep our prisons funded. They also fuel our fear by talking about scaling back state funding of Medicaid, education, public safety and lots more apocalyptic results.
A yes vote, they say, is the only way to avoid disaster. This Hobson’s Choice is possible because Alabama has a Constitution adopted in 1901 that made sure that ordinary residents, including African-Americans and poor white folks, would never be able to stand up against powerful land owners, large industries and well-funded interest groups. They would rather have this state ruled by decisions made in proverbial smoke-filled rooms.
A no vote Tuesday will make the Legislature and the governor do their jobs. They will all have to do their jobs to keep dangerous criminals in jail and those depending on the state for desperately needed health care to live. How they act in this emergency will give voters what they need the next time they decide who to fire and who to keep. Perhaps Goat Hill will finally get the message that this state needs a Constitution for the 21st century, not the 19th.
Maybe legislators will realize that the crumbs they have given voters by calling for piecemeal modification of the Constitution is meaningless. Maybe they will understand that addressing each article in the Constitution separately is not feasible, as each part must be considered in relation to every other part. We need a constitutional convention with representatives selected by the voters doing their jobs. A yes vote will just put any progress on constitutional reform off. Vote no.
If voters do not do their jobs on this, all of us will have to live with the results.
Daniel E. Spector lives in Jacksonville.