Laws governing local ballot measures in Alabama
This article sets out the laws governing local ballot measures in Alabama. It explains:
- Which local units of government make the initiative process available to residents.
- How and whether local units of government, including school districts, can refer local ballot measures (such as school bond propositions) to the ballot.
- An overview of laws governing local recall elections.
Types of local government
Local government in Alabama consists of:
- Counties: the State of Alabama is divided into 67 counties. 2 counties, Shelby and Baldwin, have been granted Home rule status by special acts of the state legislature.
- Municipalities, which may be:
- Cities: according to Alabama State Code 11-40-6, any incorporated municipality with a population of over 2,000 is a city.
- Towns: According to Alabama State Code 11-40-6, any incorporated municipality with a population of less than 2,000 is a town.
- There are 460 cities and towns in Alabama. Alabama state law does not provide for a process of adopting a charter for municipalities.
Classification of cities
All cities are divided up into eight classes based on population:
- See also: School bond and tax elections in Alabama
Alabama requires a ballot measure to issue new bonding or issue special school taxes which is protected by the Alabama Constitution. Alabama is one of a handful of states that protect its tax and debt limits through the state constitution. Alabama also allows citizens to petition for special one and three mill tax increases. Upon successful petition, it is up to a probate judge to approve such an election.
| Ballot Law Portal|
|Laws Governing Ballot Measures|
The law that governs the conduct of political recalls in Alabama is Ala. Code §11-44-130 through 11-44-134. Under these statutes, municipal commissioners and mayors are subject to recall.
Because Alabama's law governing recall only applies to municipalities with a commission form of government, some cities in the state (such as Dothan) have elected city commissioners, and recall can be applied against them. Other cities, such as Vincent, have only city council members and recall cannot be applied against them.
- For additional detail, see: Laws governing recall in Alabama
Initiative process availability
|A guide to local ballot initiatives|
- Counties have very limited powers of initiative and referendum for the establishment or repeal of certain ordinances and powers that are established in State Code 11-3A. These powers are restricted to issues of Public Health and Safety only to include:
|“|| (1) Abatement of weeds as a public nuisance as defined in Section 11-67-60.
(2) Subject to the provisions of Section 6-5-127, control of animals and animal nuisances.
Any municipality with the Optional Form A of government is granted authority for Initiative and Referendum. However, there are no cities currently using this form of government so this provision is not currently applicable.
Some cities have claimed initiative and referendum powers independent of explicit State Law authority. Out of 53 cities that responded to a survey, 5 claimed to have initiative and referendum powers. If this percentage is applied to all the municipalities, then approximately 43 municipalities have initiative and referendum powers.
Notably, Birmingham, which is the only city under the Mayor-Council form of government pursuant to the Mayor Council Act of 1955, has the powers of Initiative and Referendum, requiring signatures equaling 10% of voters in the last election.
|Local I&R Laws in the 50 States|
|Source:Local Ballot Initiatives: How citizens change laws with |
clipboards, conversations, and campaigns
There is no mention of the powers of Initiative and Referendum in the Alabama Constitution.
Authority for the referendum power is found in
Initiative process features
The procedures for petitions used in the limited direct democracy powers of counties are found in the Alabama State Code section 11-3A. Each petition must contain signatures equaling 10% of voters and the full legal names and addresses of all persons signing the petition. The petition is to be filed in the office of the judge of probate.
Initiative process in the top 10 most populated cities
|List of Most Populated Cities in Alabama|
|City||Population||City Type||Next election|
|Birmingham||212,413||General law||Special Election|
|Montgomery||208,182||General law||Has no I&R|
|Mobile||194,914||General law||Has no I&R|
|Huntsville||182,956||General law||Has no I&R|
|Tuscaloosa||91,605||General law||Has no I&R|
|Hoover||82,003||General law||Has no I&R|
|Dothan||66,010||General law||Has no I&R|
|Decatur||55,902||General law||Has no I&R|
|Auburn||54,566||General law||Has no I&R|
|Malvern||43,685||General law||Has no I&R|
- Alabama State Code
- Alabama League of Municipalities
- Alabama State Research Document
- Mayor/Council Form of Government Research Document
- I&R Laws in 10 Most Populous Cities
- ↑ Alabama Constitution, Amendments 707 and 783
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 Alabama State Code
- ↑ Cite error: Invalid
<ref>tag; no text was provided for refs named
- ↑ The U.S. Census Bureau's 2012 study of local governments
- ↑ The Birmingham News, "Vincent can't recall elected officials", March 1, 2011
- ↑ 6.0 6.1 6.2 Alabama State Research Document
- ↑ Mayor/Council Form of Government Research Document
- ↑ US Census Bureau "City and Town Totals: Vintage 2011 (Population figures as of 2011 Census estimates)
- ↑ Birmingham Election Results
- ↑ US Census, Annual Estimates of the Resident Population for Incorporated Places in Alabama: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2011