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They assumed it’d be an easy feat — until Roy Moore got involved. Bob Riley (R) worked together on an amendment to remove language in the state constitution mandating “separate schools for white and colored children” and allowing poll taxes, Jim Crow-era requirements that people to pay to vote that disenfranchised most black people.
The changes were purely symbolic — all of the state constitutional language had already been struck down by state and federal courts — but civil rights and business leaders saw it as a way to heal old wounds and make the state more attractive to big business.
But while they’d had past success in removing other racist language, even in those efforts it’d been clear that not everyone in Alabama was ready to let go of the Old South: A 2000 amendment to remove language banning interracial marriage had passed, but by a closer-than-expected 60 percent to 40 percent margin.
This amendment got caught in a more recent fight over education funding as well, an issue that’s both racially charged and far from symbolic for many voters in the state.
The amendment was a part of Riley’s push to modernize the state constitution, a sprawling, racist document dating to 1901 that codified Jim Crow and created a strong state central government.“Federal and state court rulings have struck down a lot of these [clauses] as unconstitutional, but it was viewed by many as a black eye for the state,” Toby Roth, who served as Riley’s chief of staff during the constitutional fights, told TPM.In 1993, a state judge had struck down the education language as unconstitutional while ruling that the state needed to spend more on schools.The state supreme court struck down that ruling in 2002, with Moore on the court.The ongoing tax fights had made many conservatives wary of any constitutional changes, with a faction that simply opposed any tweaks.“You do have a more conservative wing of the Republican Party that’s always suspicious of any constitution changes as a backdoor attempt to raise taxes,” Roth said. Moore told the Associated Press that the amendment was “another attempt to open the door for a court-ordered tax increase without the consent of the people” after they’d defeated the earlier amendment, while Parker ran radio ads saying that it would create “a new right to education for citizens of all ages” and warning “liberals will use this to pressure judges into raising your taxes.”Parker won by a narrow margin even though he was heavily outspent in the race.
Moore’s other controversies Moore is best known nationally for his controversial religious views.
The opposite happened instead, and Moore’s fierce opposition likely made the difference.“He had a huge impact.