Alabama’s Constitution: Longest in the World
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Alabama’s Constitution: Longest in the World


Alabama has the longest Constitution in the world. Seriously. Longer than any state or country on earth. At over three hundred ten thousand words it’s more than 40 times longer than the U.S. Constitution. And if that sounds impressive it’s actually a huge mess. To understand the size of the Constitution we’re going to have to go back to 1901 when the Constitution was signed. Back then the people writing the Constitution had a couple of goals beyond just setting up a legislative judicial and executive branch. They also wanted to make sure the document maintained racial inequality because… Alabama. But another major goal of the authors was to keep property taxes low. To do this the Constitution stripped local counties and municipalities of the ability to make a lot of decisions for themselves. Anything they wanted to change about local taxes or certain laws would have to be approved first by the state legislature and then put forward to the whole state as a constitutional amendment. The idea was if it took the entire state voting on a constitutional amendment to raise taxes it would just be too difficult to get it passed. Of course we’ve had to make changes over the past hundred years so we’ve gone through the process of amending the Constitution more than nine hundred times and those amendments is where the bulk of the Alabama Constitution’s length comes from. Some of the amendments actually make important changes to the Constitution modifying rules like the number of votes required to impeach the governor but the majority of them are just small local ordinances. If a county wants to buy a sprayer truck to deal with mosquitoes they need a constitutional amendment. If they want to build a bridge they need a constitutional amendment. If you want to legalize bingo parlors in your county you need a constitutional amendment. In 2010 three different constitutional amendments had to be passed to outlaw the use of human poop as fertilizer in three different counties. Whereas in other states seeing a constitutional amendment on the ballot usually means a big change in Alabama voters have gotten used to seeing a handful of amendments on nearly every ballot. And it’s up to the voter to figure out if it’s amendment they actually need to weigh in on or if it gives a town librarian a raise on the other side of the state. So that’s reason behind Alabama’s record-breaking Constitution. It’s mostly stuff that shouldn’t be in a constitution. I’m Jonathan Sobolewski for Reckon.

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