A number of election officials across Alabama remain confused about the impacts of a sweeping new felon disenfranchisement law, according to interviews this week with registrars representing 12 counties. The new law, which took effect in August, clarified which felons are allowed to vote and what steps they need to take to restore that right. But four registrars told AL.com this week that they were not entirely clear about the intricacies of the law and how it applies to their duties. And multiple nonprofits and advocates told AL.com last month that they were working with people who were being wrongly barred from regaining the right to vote because the law is not being properly and consistently followed.
Articles about voting issues in Alabama.
A three-judge federal panel Thursday dismissed a challenge to new district maps approved by the Alabama Legislature last spring. The judges unanimously ruled that plaintiffs who challenged three Jefferson County districts redrawn under the plan lacked standing to bring their challenge and had failed to provide a standard for the court to consider. A message seeking comment was sent Thursday evening to the Alabama attorney general’s office, which represented the state in the case. Attorney James Blacksher, who represented plaintiffs in the case, said Thursday evening the issue would likely come back after the next Census. “It leaves the question open for 2020,” he said.
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.
Alabama: Too poor to vote: How Alabama’s ‘new poll tax’ bars thousands of people from voting | AL.com
Randi Lynn Williams assumes she will never be able to afford to vote again. The 38-year-old Dothan resident lost her right to vote in 2008, when she was convicted of fraudulent use of a credit card. She was on probation for over two years, then served a few months behind bars ending in early 2011, at which point she would have been eligible to vote in most states. In Maine and Vermont, she would have never lost that right in the first place. But in Alabama and eight other states from Nevada to Tennessee, anyone who has lost the franchise cannot regain it until they pay off any outstanding court fines, legal fees and victim restitution. In Alabama, that requirement has fostered an underclass of thousands of people who are unable to vote because they do not have enough money.
Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill said he’s received reports from several voting locations where Alabamians who voted in the Aug. 15 Democratic primary were attempting to cast ballots in Tuesday’s GOP runoff. According to Alabama state law, that’s considered voter fraud and is illegal. State residents are prohibited to vote in one party’s primary and later voting in the other party’s runoff election. The process, deemed “crossover voting,” was made illegal earlier this year in an attempt to limit cross-party candidate selection as Alabamians are not required to register to a specific party to vote, but may only vote in one party’s primary.
Alabama: Probate judge: Election integrity group should look to expand, not limit, voting rights | AL.com
Alan King, the lone Alabama representative on President Donald Trump’s Election Integrity Commission, couldn’t attend the panel’s meeting Tuesday in New Hampshire. But King, the chief election officer and probate judge for Jefferson County, let the commission know how he felt about what he sees as an effort to keep people from voting rather than expanding the right to vote. “It is my sincere hope and prayer that this Commission will focus on the real election issues facing the United States of America, including alleged ‘hacking’ by the Russians, instead of spending precious time focusing on non-issues to deprive American citizens from voting,” King, a Democrat, stated in a recent 5-page report to the panel.
Despite accounting for more than one-quarter of the state’s population, African-Americans rarely get elected to the state’s highest courts – a situation advocacy groups want to change by ending statewide judicial elections. Their argument got a boost this week after a federal judge rejected motions to dismiss a lawsuit brought last fall by the NAACP of Alabama and The Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. The organizations filed suit against the state of Alabama and Secretary of State John Merrill. The lawsuit alleges that the practice of holding statewide elections for Alabama’s 19 appellate judges disenfranchises black voters. Instead, civil rights groups propose creating districts for elections, increasing the odds for black candidates in majority-black districts.
In the future, any special U.S. Senate races would happen during a general election cycle and not in a separate off-cycle election like the one currently underway, according to proposed legislation. Rep. Steve Clouse, R-Ozark, has pre-filed for next year’s session a bill to allow the governor to appoint an interim senator until the next general election, which happen every two years. Cost is a driving concern, Clouse said today. The Legislative Fiscal Office estimates that the primary, runoff and general election this year to replace Jeff Sessions will each cost about $3.5 million.
A civil rights organization is asking Alabama’s secretary of state to restore hundreds of thousands of people to active voter status after what the group described as widespread confusion in election day. In a Friday letter to Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill, the Southern Poverty Law Center said it believes large numbers of people were incorrectly moved to inactive voting status during an update of rolls. Merrill responded that his office followed the law. The secretary of state’s office said 340,162 people were put on inactive voter status in the required update of voting rolls.
Many voters were confused at the polls Tuesday because even though they had voted in the presidential race, they were told they were on the inactive voter list. The Alabama Secretary of State’s Office says out of the state’s 3.3 million voters, 340,162 were moved to the inactive list this year. Every four years, according to federal and state law, cards are sent to voters to verify their address. If they’re marked return to sender twice, the voter is put on the inactive list. Local 15 production assistant Caitlin Smith has lived in this same apartment for a year and voted in the presidential election.