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At 357,157 words, the document is 12 times longer than the average state constitution, 40 times longer than the U.S. Constitution, and is the longest still-operative constitution anywhere in the world (the Constitution of India, the longest national constitution, comes in at approximately 117,000 words).
About 90 percent of the document's length comes from its 799 (as of 2007) amendments. About 70 percent of those amendments cover only a single county or city, and some deal with salaries of specific officials (e.g., Amendment 480 and the Greene County probate judge). This gives Alabama a large number of constitutional officers.
- See also: Preambles to state constitutions
The Preamble of the Alabama Constitution says:
- We the people of the State of Alabama, invoking the favor and guidance of Almighty God, do ordain and establish the following Constitution.
The inordinate length is both because of and the cause of heavy centralization of government power in the state capital, Montgomery, leaving very little authority to local units. Counties cannot even legislate on local issues, requiring the state legislature, and ipso facto uninvolved parts of the state, to pass local laws.
The constitution addresses many issues that are dealt with by statute in most other states. The most notable issue is taxation. Unlike most other states, a large portion of Alabama's tax code is written into the constitution. Besides prohibiting local governments from passing any local ordinances on tax issues, this necessitates its amendment over minor taxation issues. This, along with the requirement that an amendment must be unanimously approved in by the legislature or face a statewide vote, has resulted in local county or municipality related amendments being overwhelmingly approved, but ultimately rejected statewide. 
Size and local relevance
The document has been amended for such diverse topics such as:
- Bingo (Amendments 386 and 387 in Jefferson, further amended by Amendment 600) and Madison Counties, Amendment 413 in Montgomery County, Amendment 440 in Mobile County, Amendment 506 in Etowah County, Amendment 508 in Calhoun County, Amendment 699 in Morgan County, Amendment 612 in Russell County, Amendment 674 in Lowndes County, and Amendment 692 in Limestone County, all of which are almost or exactly the same)
- Mosquito control taxes in Mobile County (Amendment 351), which was later amended by Amendment 361 to remove a single word ("tangible"), then FURTHER amended by Amendment 393 to expand it to "other general health purposes" so long as these purposes do not take more than 50% of the collected money.
- Boll weevil taxes on cotton growers (Amendment 449)
- Promotion of catfish (Amendment 492), soybeans (Twice, Amendment 315 and Amendment 401), cattle (Twice, Amendment 201 and Amendment 452), poultry (Twice, Amendment 214 and amended by Amendment 428), swine (Twice, Amendment 327 and Amendment 400), an omnibus amendment for peanuts, milk, and cotton (Amendment 388), grain (Amendment 453), sheep and goats (Amendment 715), and shrimp and seafood generally (Amendment 766).
- Dead farm animals (Amendment 482 in Limestone County by the County Commission)
- Prostitution (Amendment 688 in Jefferson County).
- Exhumation in Madison County (Amendment 520 by the County Commission), see also the above entry for Dead farm animals in Limestone county
- Forest fire tax levies in Marshall County (Amendment 439)
- Redneckery (Amendment 497 in Jefferson County)
The Legislature has also been forced to amend amendments that often concerned similarly trivial matters (See other sections for more examples):
- Public debt over Mobile County (Amendments 152 and 363 over Amendment 18)
- Promotion of Madison County and Huntsville (Amendment 254 over Amendment 191)
- Special taxation for public healthcare in Mobile County (Amendment 248 over Amendment 195)
- Taxation for "Furtherance of Education" in Jefferson County (Amendments 248, 260, and 298 over Amendment 175)
- Civic center bonds (Amendment 280 over Amendment 238)
- Fire protection and trash pickup in Jefferson County (Amendments 314 and 369 over Amendment 239)
- Use of gas taxes (Amendment 354 over Amendment 93)
- Mosquito control taxes (See above)
- The State Judiciary (Amendments 328, 364, and 426 over the original Article VI, later amendments 580 and 581 were made directly to the article and not previous amendments.
- School taxes in Huntsville (Amendment 407 over Amendment 218)
- Fire department districts in Etowah County (Amendment 445 over Amendment 432)
- The Jackson, Alabama Port Authority (Amendment 477 over Amendment 465)
- Constitutional amendments that deal with one county (Amendment 555 over Amendment 425
- The Madison County Judiciary (Amendment 607 over Amendment 334)
- Corporation taxation (Amendment 662 over Amendment 212)
- Fire/Emergency services taxes in Montgomery County (Amendment 711 over Amendment 551)
- Calhoun County school district taxes (Amendment 720 over 291)
- More fire protection taxes, this time in DeKalb County (Amendment 728 over Amendment 637)
- Costs of court for a new Russell County jail (Amendment 736 over 507)
- Some reservoir (water) Authority in Fayette County (751 over Amendment 538)
- Even more fire protection taxes, now in Pickens County (Amendment 765 over Amendment 649)
- Section 97 prohibits deceased officials from receiving a salary.
The paper has also been falsely amended at least once ("Amendment" 587). This may be the reason why it has no Amendment 621, skipping from 620 to 622, however Amendment 693 is also missing. There is also a strange "additional" amendment, Amendment "26A". The reason for this unusual nomenclature is unknown.
It contains many racist elements. One provision completely disenfranchised African American voters, but it has been rendered inoperative. The President of the Constitutional Convention stated in his inaugural address that their intention was "within the limits imposed by the Federal Constitution, to establish white supremacy in this State."(Day 2 of 54)
Originally it outlawed interracial marriage (Section 102), however this provision was removed in 2000 by Amendment 667. The constitution still requires racially segregated education in the state (Section 256). Although this provision has not been enforced since the 1960s, the continued existence of these provisions is seen by some in Alabama as an embarrassment to the state. A proposal to strike the segregation requirement was defeated narrowly in 2004 (MSNBC). Nearly all organizations opposing the repeal of the segregation measure pointed to a provision stating that the state did not provide a "right" to a state financed education. Groups opposing the repeal of this amendment claimed that repeal would lead to court decisions requiring the state to raise taxes.
Section 177 denied women the right to vote by confining voting rights to "male citizens," but this was rendered unenforceable by the 19th Amendment until Amendment 579 was substituted, which contained no reference to gender.
Impropriety of parts
The constitution includes many provisions that are either wholly or partly archaic in their wording or functions, or are inappropriate for inclusion in a constitution; many of these have also been rendered unenforceable by federal laws and court rulings. For instance:
- Section 86 mandates that "The legislature shall pass such penal laws as it may deem expedient to suppress the evil practice of dueling" (Other State constitutions have anti-dueling provisions, see the article on duelling).
- Section 90 gives instructions on the proper method of annexing foreign territory.
- Section 191 deals with "the evils arising from the use of intoxicating liquors at all elections."
- The rather wordy Section 244 deals with granting of free railroad tickets to elected officials.
- Section 245 prohibits railroads from misleading customers as to their rates.
Efforts to remove or amend these have so far proved unsuccessful.
Amendment 557 is Alabama's version of the Victims' Rights Amendment.
There is a movement for reform of the Alabama constitution. It is spearheaded by the non-profit organization Alabama Citizens for Constitutional Reform (ACCR), which was formed out of a rally in Tuscaloosa in 2000. ACCR tracks its reported successes and failures on its website. ACCR has also lent its help to a documentary titled It's a Thick Book, the title, referring to the Constitution, comes from a comment made by a civil servant at the attorney general's office when requested a hard copy of it.
There are a growing number of advocates agree on the need to reform the Alabama Constitution, yet they disagree on matters including the way to go about reworking the document. Some advocate for a Constitutional convention to rewrite the document, including many leaders within ACCR. Other leaders, including Governor Bob Riley and House Minority leader Mike Hubbard, desire to see the Constitution rewritten through an article-by-article approach. Bills to call for a Constitutional convention have appeared in the Alabama Legislature yet have not been brought to a vote.
Amending the constitution
Proposed amendments to the constitution must have the approval of 60% of the members of each house of the Alabama State Legislature and then approved by a simple majority vote of the state's voters at an election designated by the legislature.
- Text of the Constitution
- Note! Links to sections open in already existing windows!
- Information about the previous 5
- Alabama Citizens for Constitutional Reform