Louisiana’s constitution is cluttered, and come election day next week, will likely become more so thanks to the nine proposed constitutional amendments included on the Nov. 6 ballot.
The state’s voters, according to the Public Affairs Research Council, have approved 167 out of 239 amendment proposals since the creation of Louisiana’s current constitution in 1974. The Louisiana Constitution is one of the most amended constitutions in the U.S., and according to PAR, is a bastardization of what a constitution is meant to be:
A constitution is supposed to be a state’s fundamental law that contains the essential elements of government organization, the basic principles of governmental powers and the enumeration of citizens rights. A constitution is meant to have permancence.
Louisiana has a long history of frequent constitutional changes, Too often, amendments are drafted for a specific situation rather than setting a guiding principle and leaving the Legislature to fill in the details by statute. Special interests frequently demand constitutional protection for favored programs to avoid future interference, resulting in numerous revenue dedications and trust fund provisions. The concept of the Constitution as a relatively permanent statement of basic law fades with the adoption of many amendments.
Melinda Deslatte of the Associated Press writes the problem hasn’t escaped the attention of state lawmakers, but still continues to grow, resulting in distrust of the legislative process and state government.
Noting ballots in recent years have included as many as 15 constitutional amendments, Deslatte writes:
Often, issues put before voters in constitutional amendments are arcane, highly-specialized or only applicable to one municipality. And in a problematic twist, as more gets written into the constitution, that could require even more amendment proposals for voters as situations change or problems develop with the provisions added.
Statistics over years of elections have shown that people often skip making decisions on constitutional amendments when in the voting booth, with fewer votes cast the farther down the ballot an amendment is.So, for those who do vote on amendment proposals, whether haphazardly or not, it may be in your best interest to at least know what constitutional changes you will be voting on.
The situation is unlikely to change anytime soon, since it would take a constitutional convention to fully revamp the state’s guiding document. That’s a lengthy endeavor that lawmakers have shown little interest in when their colleagues have proposed the idea.
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