In 2000, 41% of Alabama voters said they wanted to keep federally nullified language in their constitution saying blacks and whites could not marry. In 2004, a narrow majority defeated an amendment that would have 1) eliminated references to Jim Crow laws and poll taxes, and 2) declared that there is a constitutional right to education. Now the Alabama legislature is attempting to once again remove that racist language:
The proposed amendment would eliminate language that calls for separate schools for black and white students and poll taxes, the latter generally viewed as instituted to keep black residents from voting.
“Even though federal laws nullify these old wordings, it remains a black eye on the state,” said Cam Ward, another Republican senator.
Some lawmakers have tried for years to rewrite the entire state constitution, which they criticize as outdated and cumbersome.
This is will be an interesting test. In 2000 there was the excuse of taxation issues that came along with declaring public education a right. It isn’t surprising that the deep south has questionable commitments to education, but that won’t be a factor when this issue likely appears on ballots in 2012. Alabama voters are going to have to give a plain up or down vote without making excuses for their deeply embedded racism.
While I suspect a number of voters there did legitimately glom onto the public education issue in 2000, I more strongly suspect that a majority of those voters really just don’t like black people. My guess is that we see another round of absurdly, blatantly, baldly racist people filling up the ballot boxes just like in 2000 – especially if the Tea Party manages to churn up a big turn-out.