For the fourth time, Jim Bennett took the oath of office today as Alabama’s secretary of state. Bennett, 73, was sworn in just after 5 p.m. by Gov. Robert Bentley to replace Beth Chapman, who resigned to take a job with the Alabama Farmers Federation. Bennett won’t be a candidate for the office next year. Bentley said at the time he appointed Bennett that he did not want to appoint anybody who planned to run for the office. Bennett was appointed secretary of state in 1993 and was elected to the position in 1994 and 1998. His election in 1998 marked the first time for a Republican to hold the office since Reconstruction. Bentley praised Chapman’s work and said he expected a smooth transition.
Jefferson County election officials are concerned about the impact of Alabama’s new voter photo ID law. Outgoing Sec. of State Beth Chapman announced the new requirement last week. It will start in January of 2014 where all voters will be required to present a voter photo ID before they vote. If a voter does not have an ID card, the state will provide a free one for them. “They mentioned they would provide the equipment and the paper but…I haven’t seen anything about actually covering the cost that we will incur,” Barry Stevenson, Chairman of the Jefferson County Board of Registrars said.
Friday, Secretary of State Beth Chapman announced plans for voter photo identification for the 2014 elections. The law, which passed in 2011, calls for voters to present a photo identification in future elections. Under the law voter can choose between several forms of identification including a valid driver’s license, non-driver photo id, photo employee cards issued by the state of Alabama and the United States, military id’s and passports. Friday, Probate Judge Alan King was reviewing the law’s requirements. King said he hopes voters don’t wait for election day to get identification if they don’t have one. “Certain number of people who haven’t been presenting their driver’s license ID, they need to know about this,” King said.
With 17 months left in her term, Secretary of State Beth Chapman plans to resign Aug. 1 and enter private business. Chapman told The Associated Press she has an offer in government and public relations consulting that she can’t pass up, and she will end her decade in public office to take the position. She has not released details of the new job, but she said it doesn’t involve lobbying. A few months ago, Chapman was being talked about as a possible candidate for governor, but she said she is pleased with Republican Gov. Robert Bentley and would not run against him. “He’s not only my governor, he’s my friend,” she said. He also recently appointed her to the board of trustees of her alma mater, the University of Montevallo.
Top Alabama officials say voters apparently will have to present photo identification at the polls in the next election. Gov. Robert Bentley, Secretary of State Beth Chapman and Attorney General Luther Strange said the Supreme Court’s ruling Tuesday throwing out part of the federal Voting Rights Act means the state does not have to submit for preclearance a new law requiring voters to show photo identification. Strange said the voter identification law will be implemented immediately. Democratic state Rep. Alvin Holmes of Montgomery said fears the photo ID law will be used to intimidate blacks and keep some elderly people from being able to vote. He said it’s the kind of thing that should be reviewed by the Justice Department. “This is a perfect example of why we need pre-clearance,” Holmes said. “The civil rights community had a bad day yesterday.” The governor, however, said he believes pre-clearance is no longer needed.
Alabama’s new photo voter ID law will go into effect with the June 2014 primaries – now less than a year away — but the state has yet to submit the law for federal preclearance or to develop a free ID that is supposed to be available to voters. Alabama lawmakers in 2011 approved a law to require Alabamians – beginning with the party primaries in June of 2014 — to show photo identification in order to vote. The state has yet to submit the new law for preclearance with the U.S. Department of Justice so it can be used in next year’s elections.
Members of the local Democratic Party are upset that an unknown number of ballots in the March primary election may not have been counted because the voters’ mailing addresses did not match their addresses on file at their precincts. One of the party members, Milton Morrow, who has run for political office in the past, has filed a formal complaint with Secretary of State Beth Chapman’s office asking for a cease and desist order against Mobile County Probate Judge Don Davis. Davis had flagged 4,000 such voters who moved from one part of Mobile County to another and ordered that their ballots be cast as “provisional ballots,” which, by law, count only if the Board of Registrars can demonstrate that the voter is eligible. Napoleon Bracy, a state representative from Prichard who heads the Mobile County Democratic Executive Committee, said he’s concerned about the practice as municipal elections in most all local cities are on Aug. 28.
Alabama: State, county officials blame each other for Alabama absentee ballot fiasco | The Montgomery Advertiser
The state of Alabama filed a response Wednesday to a temporary restraining order issued over absentee ballots that were sent late to military and overseas voters. The response filed Wednesday lists some of the precautions the secretary of state’s office took and the special circumstances that led to the delays. County and state election officials, meanwhile, sparred over where to place the blame for the delays. The U.S. Justice Department filed a suit late Friday against Alabama and Secretary of State Beth Chapman alleging that the state failed to send absentee ballots to military and overseas voters by the required deadline for the March 13 primaries. U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson issued a temporary restraining order against Chapman and the state Tuesday that requires them to work with the Justice Department to decide on a remedy for the late ballots.