Alabama has clarified its voting rights policy in response to a report by AL.com. Secretary of State John Merrill said via email Thursday that a class of felons featured in a Wednesday AL.com story are in fact eligible to register to vote, despite the fact that a number of them said they had recently applied for and been denied that right. Felons like Randi Lynn Williams are in fact eligible to immediately regain their voting rights, according to Merrill. Williams, a 38-year-old Dothan woman who was convicted of fraudulent use of a credit card in 2011, would not have lost the right to vote under a new state law that went into effect in August.
“The voter would be eligible to register to vote and would be allowed to do so regardless of whether they have come to the end of their assigned incarceration period,” Merrill wrote in a Thursday email. “The voter would not be required to pay fines, fees, or restitution to register to vote.”
A Wednesday report co-published by AL.com and The Guardian exposed that felons across Alabama who had completed their terms of incarceration and supervision were being denied the right to vote solely because they had not paid off any outstanding fines, fees and restitution – debts known as legal financial obligations.
Merrill’s Thursday statement appears to run counter to one he made to AL.com via telephone last month, though he maintains that it does not.