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Alabama’s Constitutional Amendments 2020: Amendment One, ‘only’ citizens can vote

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala., — It is currently 36 days from Election Day, November 3rd, but Alabama voters are already going to the polls in unprecedented numbers — casting in-person absentee ballots.

Voter guides tend to be offered near the election, but because the voting rules this year are different, News 19 is starting our efforts this week, looking at the six constitutional amendments on Alabama ballots this year.

First up is Amendment One, which focuses on a citizen’s right to vote. Voters in Colorado and Florida are being asked a similar question.

So, what would this measure do?

Alabama’s constitution contains plenty of obsolete language, including on voting. Amendment One, sponsored by Alabama Senate Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston, would change the state’s language on who is entitled to vote from “every citizen” to “only citizens.” But the passage — now obsolete — actually says every — male citizen.

It’s largely symbolic, the Alabama Legislature isn’t likely to grant non-citizens the right to vote anytime soon, but here’s what voters are being asked to decide:

Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of Alabama of 1901, to amend Article VIII of the Constitution of Alabama of 1901, now appearing as Section 177 of the Official Recompilation of the Constitution of Alabama of 1901, as amended, to provide that only a citizen of the United States has the right to vote.

Proposed by Act 2019-330.

“Yes ( ) No ( ).”

A “yes vote” on this proposal would change language allowing every U.S. citizen to vote — to “only U.S. citizens.”

News 19 political analyst Jess Brown explained some of the background behind drawing that distinction.

“Senator Marsh views Article 8, the suffrage article of the old 1901 Constitution, that it protects the right to vote for citizens, but it does not explicitly prohibit non-citizens from being authorized to be a voter by the legislature,” Brown said. “And we wants to take away that discretion from the legislature and make it clear in our state constitution that non-citizens may not be registered voters in Alabama.”

Senator Marsh’s office issued a statement on the amendment, “Ensuring that we have fair elections is more important now than ever. This Constitutional Amendment sends a message to Washington that we demand ballot security be taken seriously,” said Willl Califf, spokesman for Senator Marsh. “It would strengthen the language and send a message that this is something the voters want Washington politicians to take seriously.”

On Tuesday, News 19 will look at Amendments 2 and 3, which propose major changes to the state court system.

Each of the stories on the amendments will be on whnt.com, and our news app.

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