Alabama to vote on a segregation remnant

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MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- Decades after segregation ended in Alabama, the practice is still mandated by the state's constitution, and voters next week will get their second chance in years to eliminate an anachronism that still exists on paper.

Amendment 4 -- the proposal to delete the constitution's archaic language affirming segregation -- is tucked amid routine issues of sewers, bonds and city boundaries on a crowded Election Day ballot. In 2004, Alabamians narrowly voted to keep the controversial language.

This time, the state's two largest black political groups, the Alabama Democratic Conference and Alabama New South Alliance, are urging a "no" vote.

After the U.S. Supreme Court banned school segregation in 1954, Alabamians voted in 1956 to amend the state constitution to say there is no right to public education at taxpayers' expense and that "students shall attend schools provided for their own race." Both changes were meant to thwart integration.

That language was voided by federal court rulings. A few years later, the federal voting rights act negated another provision in Alabama's constitution requiring the payment of poll taxes designed to keep poor blacks from voting.

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Supporters of Amendment 4 say it's time to remove the two provisions from the constitution and project an image of a modern state eager to draw companies and jobs.

The two black groups and the state's main teachers' group say the proposed changes would wipe out some racially charged phrases but also keep other language that could hurt funding for public education in the state.

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