6 things you might not know about the Alabama constitution

Alabama Capitol
Get in-the-know about the Alabama Constitution. Photo via Bama Buzz

The Alabama state constitution is world-famous for being long, old and very, very long. Keep reading to learn more about the state’s guiding legislative document, including some of the strangest laws still on the books in Alabama.

1. The longest constitution in the world

Hardbound Books Bookshelf
In its entirety, the Alabama Constitution can fill up an entire bookshelf. Photo via Unsplash

Yep. The longest. In the world. Weighing in at 800 amendments, it is the longest governing document known in the world. Even better, it’s not that old. The current Alabama constitution was adopted in 1901, and is currently over 380,000 words long.

Over the years, there have been many legislative pushes to shorten the constitution. For better or for worse, these motions failed and Alabama retains the record for world’s longest state constitution.

2. This isn’t our first constitution

Lake Guntersville Alabama Lakes
Measures for state parks are in the Alabama constitution. Photo via Lake Guntersville State Park’s Facebook

In fact, we’ve had six state constitutions. The first was adopted in 1819, turning Alabama from a territory into a state. Next began a rapid cycle of new constitutions before, during and after the Civil War: 1861, 1865 and 1868. Those marked Alabama’s secession from the United States in 1861, then its rejoining of the Union in 1865 and then the end of the Reconstruction period in 1868.

Alabama had another constitution in 1875, which reversed many of the reforms passed in the 1868 constitution like the establishment of the State Board of Education. Most recently, the current constitution was adopted in 1901.

3. The first Alabama constitution was ratified in Huntsville

Huntsville Saturn V Rocket City
Before Huntsville was home to the Saturn V, it was the state capitol. Photo courtesy of Gerrit Burke @sparrowdronehsv

Huntsville was the capitol of the state of Alabama at its founding and the place our state’s first constitution was adopted.

To commemorate its history as the foundation of the Alabama constitution, Huntsville erected Constitution Village, an interactive historical park on the same grounds 44 representatives met on in 1819 to ratify Alabama into the United States.

4. Alabama’s constitution has 951 amendments

Alabama Capitol Montgomery
Alabama State Capitol, Montgomery. Photo via Bama Buzz

This checks out, considering the Alabama constitution is the longest in the world. These amendments cover everything from taxes to transportation to ice cream cone etiquette.

Some of the more controversial (read: vile and inhumane) parts of the original 1901 document have been repealed, but the language of those amendments still remains in the Alabama constitution. Last year, there was a statewide effort that you might have noticed on your ballot to remove several of the more offensive (already repealed) laws from the document. The measure, Amendment 4, passed.

If you’re interested in reading all of the amendments, here is a link to the full document. Good luck—it’s not exactly a light beach read.

5. Many of the state laws only apply to a single city or county

Alabama Capitol
Alabama State Capitol, Montgomery. Photo via Bama Buzz

One of the reasons the Alabama constitution has so. many. amendments is because it strictly limits home rule, meaning that each city and county must go through the state to adopt and alter laws. This means that many of the constitution’s 951 amendments only concern one city or county.

6. Alabama’s constitution has some strange laws

Two Ice Cream Cones
We’ve all heard of Alabama’s “Ice Cream Law,” but did you know we have several other strange and wacky laws? Photo via Unsplash

Did you know that it’s illegal to carry an ice cream cone in your back pocket in Alabama? But that’s not the only weird law we keep on the books. Check out a few others below:

  • Bear wrestling is illegal.
  • Putting salt on a railroad track is illegal (and punishable by death—yikes).
  • It’s illegal to wear a mustache in church.
  • Playing Dominos on a Sunday is illegal.
  • It’s illegal to impersonate a member of the clergy (I guess all those priest/nun Halloween costumes are out).
  • It’s illegal to drive blindfolded.

Many of these beg the question: why did this have to be specified? If you know the story behind any of Alabama’s odder laws, or if we missed your favorite weird law, let us know!

Over the last 120 years, there have been several, and some ongoing, efforts to create a new Alabama constitution. And while popularity for a new state constitution is growing, it would still seemingly take a lot for a state convention to draft and adopt a new constitution.

Want more news about buzzy things happening at the state capitol (besides new amendments)? Check out these recent Bama Buzz stories:

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Claire Hancock
Claire Hancock
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