Alabama segregation amendment unchanged

By Noble Johns

MONTGOMERY, Alabama (BNW) – They just won’t let it go! A statewide recount showed that Alabama narrowly voted to keep language in the state constitution supporting segregation and poll taxes, according to unofficial totals released Friday.

Secretary of State Nancy Worley said voters defeated the amendment by just 1,850 votes out of more than 1.3 million cast. The original vote count showed the amendment lost by the same margin, or 0.13 percent.

Worley cautioned that the totals are unofficial until the votes are certified next week. "But this is an indication it is not going to turn around," she said.

The amendment would have erased unenforced language from Alabama's constitution that required segregated schools and poll taxes, which were designed to keep blacks from voting. Supporters of the amendment said the language is a painful and embarrassing reminder of the South's divisive past, and makes Alabama look bad to companies who might want to do business in the state.

But the measure also would have removed language that said there is no constitutional right to an education at public expense in Alabama. Opponents said removing it could have led to huge, court-ordered tax hikes for schools.

Gov. Bob Riley said Friday he will ask the Legislature in its February session to approve a version of the amendment that would remove only the constitutional language on segregated schools and poll taxes. That is what he originally wanted, but the Legislature decided to expand his recommendation before presenting it to voters in the November 2 election.

"Despite the defeat of Amendment Two, I'm confident the vast majority of Alabamians support removing segregationist language from our constitution," the governor said.

Most counties had close to or exactly the same totals they had on November 2, but some saw variations of hundreds of votes.

County election officials attributed the differences to some ballots not being counted by electronic scanners because they were too wrinkled, and voters marking the ballots with their personal pens rather than those provided at polling places. In a few instances, counties misplaced some ballots between the election and the recount, election officials said.

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