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Record set for state’s lowest

voter turnout in history

By BETH LAKEY

Staff Writer

Alabama’s Constitutional Amendment Election held Tuesday set a new record ­ the lowest voter turnout in history.

With 65 of 67 counties reporting, only 7.2 percent of the state’s 2.4 million registered voters even went to the polls.

When Secretary of State Jim Bennett predicted less than 20 percent of Alabama’s registered voters would go to the polls, he was correct.

According to his office, the state’s record low before Tuesday was when 11 percent of the state’s voters casted ballots for a constitutional amendment in 1985.

Bennett said he was not surprised of the record low, "given the lack of any raging controversy" surrounding the amendment proposal.

Wednesday afternoon, the Secretary of State’s office reported 122,137 approved a corporate income tax increase by a landslide. The other 38,118 votes were against the increase.

In most counties, voters favored the increase by a better than 3-to-1 margin and Pike County was among them.

Of the eight percent of Pike County voters who went to the polls, 1,194 voted "yes" and 225 voted against the proposal.

According to the Pike County Board of Registrars, there are 17,616 citizens registered to vote in Pike County. When the votes were counted, 1,419 actually voted either "yes" or "no" for the proposed amendment to the Constitution of Alabama 1901.

In other words, just over 84 percent of Pike County voters chose to increase the state corporate income tax rate from 5 percent to 6.5 percent.

Like Bennett, Pike County Probate Judge Bill Stone was not surprised so few voted.

He said he appreciated everyone who did vote, but was disappointed more did not. Usually between 30 and 40 percent of Pike County’s registered voters go to the polls.

"Anytime you have a ballot that doesn’t contain personalities you can almost be assured voter turnout will be lower," Stone said.

Once the official numbers are all in, corporations will be paying more taxes beginning with the 2001 calendar year.

Bill O’Conner, president of the Business Council of Alabama, told the Associated Press the vote was the first step toward making tax laws fairer.

Proposal of the tax increase was the result of the United States Supreme Court declaring Alabama’s franchise tax on out-of-state companies to be unconstitutional. As a result of that decision, the state stands to lose $120 million each year and the state needs the money generated from passage of the amendment to operate.

But, the constitutional amendment is expected to generate about $100 million for the state each year.

Despite some disappointment in the turnout, business groups got exactly what they wanted. They had pushed the Alabama Legislature not to set the tax vote to coincide with the June 6 primaries because they wanted to stay as far away from elections that might attract a large number of voters.

To get the special election, a business coalition that helped develop the measure agreed to a $250 tax surcharge on medium-size and large companies to generate the $3 million to pay for it.

Pike County Administrator Steve Hicks said it’s still too early to tell how much the special election cost Pike County because all the bills have not been received.