My grandfather was known as an “off the boat” Italian because he literally stepped off a boat from Sicily onto Ellis Island. Pop gradually learned a little English but primarily spoke Italian. Growing up, I learned to translate the broken English from the off the boat paisans in the neighborhood; between the few words, hand signals and the little Italian I knew, I could figure out what they were trying to say.
My grandfather was easier to understand than the current Alabama election ballot.
As I always do before voting, I check out the amendments on the sample ballot because I don’t want to spend an hour trying to decipher the legalese while at the polling place. But this year, the convoluted language that is supposed to “inform” voters has gone too far.
Check out this from proposed Amendment #6:
"Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of Alabama of 1901, as amended, each municipality authorized under Amendment No. 8 to the Constitution of Alabama of 1901, now appearing Section 216.01 of the Recompiled Constitution of Alabama of 1901, as amended, to levy and collect the ad valorem tax pursuant to Amendment No. 8 for the purpose of paying bonds and the interest thereon…”
Seriously? I’d have an easier time translating the Rosetta Stone. You might as well be speaking Esperanto. Perhaps I’m not aware the state legislature has a secret decoder ring that will be handed out at the polls.
So let me get this straight, Alabama legislators. First, you assume I will be able to vote on proposed Amendment #6 because I know what is covered under Amendment #8 of the “Recompiled” (whatever that means) Constitution written 121 years ago. But wait, there’s more. You also assume that I’m familiar with Section 216.01 of said Constitution.
This amendment should come with three options for the voter:
-Heck no, because it’s obvious this is something you want since you’re trying to frustrate me with convoluted language in the hopes I’ll simply skip this question while the few people who understand it vote yes.
Look, legislators, I know you’re trying to make life better for us, and I understand anything that becomes law has to pass legal muster. Fine. But can you simplify things for the voting booth so that the average person can understand what is being proposed? Please, ditch the legalese and boil things down to the simplest terms. Like this:
Should Alabama have a state lottery?
Now, is that so hard? Would you need an entire law firm billing the state thousands of dollars drafting language to find out if people want a lottery? You’re familiar with the term “legal briefs” so take it literally and be brief.
To summarize my closing argument, the plaintiff (voters) request the defendants (legislators) who are the de facto conservators of the state of Alabama to make a good faith effort to use conversational English so that said ballots can be easily comprehended by the populace.
The prosecution rests.
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