Conservative agenda victory

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 16, 2005

After several months of pulling, prodding and provoking our Democrat counterparts across the aisle, the House Republican Caucus enjoyed a great victory this week with our body’s passage of a constitutional amendment banning the recognition of same sex marriages in Alabama.

The bill was a centerpiece of the conservative, Republican agenda our caucus announced, introduced and began fighting for more than a year ago.

Support for the amendment signaled a change in attitude among the Democrats since many of their members, as well as their leadership, were responsible for killing the exact same legislation during last year’s regular legislative session.

Without the deliberate actions of the Democrat Caucus, Alabamians would have already voted on the issue last November and it would, most likely, be in our state constitution today.

Obviously, President George W. Bush’s overwhelming success in Alabama in November and the fact that similar same sex marriage bans have been passed in 13 other states by an average margin of 70 percentage points scared many Democrats into putting their liberal beliefs aside and finally supporting our call for the amendment.

Unfortunately, the House Democrats did hand Alabamians a sad defeat by insisting on language that could place the amendment on the 2006 primary ballot instead of the general election, a move that will discourage many voters from going to the polls and having their voice be heard.

Primary elections are not state elections but are, instead, run by the two major political parties and used to select their nominees.

Only party activists typically participate because, in order to vote in a primary, you must declare an allegiance to either the Democratic or Republican parties.

Independents, swing voters, third party voters and those who do not wish to declare a party affiliation may not participate.

On those rare occasions when a constitutional amendment appears on the primary ballot, voters who do not wish to declare a party may vote on the amendment alone, but they must seek out an election official and request a separate referendum ballot be prepared for them.

For these reasons, voter turnout in party primaries is usually about 15 percent, far below the 65 percent turnout for general elections.

This process is confusing for Independent voters who believe that only declared Republicans or Democrats are allowed to participate in the primary elections and requires them to take extra effort to have a voice on the amendment.

Because of the confusion it creates, placing the amendment on the primary ballot, in effect, disenfranchises a large segment of voters from participating.

Republicans offered an amendment that would have placed the issue on next year’s general election ballot, but Democrats defeated our effort to have this important issue decided in an election with higher turnout so everyone can have their voice be heard.

Instead, only about 15 percent of the voters will end up deciding the direction of our state.

In addition to the same sex marriage ban, our caucus is continuing to push for passage of the other items in our conservative agenda – items such as statutorily ending the practice of &uot;pass through pork,&uot; returning sound fiscal practices to our budgetary process, implementing truly traceable campaign contribution reforms and reverting to property tax reappraisals that occur every four years rather than annually.

Cam Ward, Mike Hill and Mary Sue McClurkin serve as state representatives for Shelby County