Sunday, June 24, 2018

Seven Ways AL Has Made It Harder to Vote

Alabama has enacted a Slew of Restrictive Laws and policies, many of which disproportionately affect African-Americans, Latinos, and other marginalized Groups. In this, it stands out only in Degree, not in Kind. All over the Country, State Legislators are making it harder to Vote using Voting Measures they say are intended to Prevent Election Fraud.

1. A Photo Identification Law moves Forward - Within 24 hours of the Supreme Court’s S Invalidated the Voting Rights Act’s Requirement, Alabama announced that in 2014, it would Start Requiring Photo Identification to Vote under a Law Passed in 2011 but stymied by the Voting Rights Act. The Number of States with similar Laws has since ballooned.

2. Driver’s License Offices are Closed in Black Areas - The year after the Photo Identification Law took effect, the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency announced that it would Close 31 Driver’s License Offices, one of the Primary Places where Alabamians could obtain Photo Identification. The Closings were in response to Budget Cuts, but there was a Clear Racial Pattern.

3. Officials Push for a Proof-of-Citizenship Mandate - In January 2016, Alabama received Permission from a Federal Election Official to require Proof of Citizenship to Register to Vote in State and Local Elections, though a Judge later Blocked the Change. If Enforced, this Requirement would Create a Dual System in which the Criteria to Vote in State and Local Elections would be Stricter than in Federal Elections, where Proof of Citizenship is Not Required. After a Judge rejected this process in Kansas, only Arizona currently Enforces such a System, but several other States have tried.

4. Dozens of Polling Places are Closed - By November 2016, Alabama had at least 66 fewer Polling Places than it did at the time of the Shelby ruling in 2013. Because only 18 of Alabama’s 67 Counties were examined, it is not clear whether there was a Racial Pattern. Locally, however, there have been some damning moves. For instance, Daphne, a City of 26,000 near Mobile, eliminated Three of its Five Polling Places in 2016, Disproportionately affecting One of Two Districts with a significant number of Black Voters. A Reuters Investigation also found Racially Disparate Closings in Georgia. Nationwide, nearly 3,000 Polling Places Closed between 2012 and 2016. More than 860 of the Closings were in Seven States, including Alabama, where Some or All Counties were Subject to Federal oversight before Shelby.

5. A get-Out-The-Vote Group is Hamstrung - In September 2016, a Federal Appeals Court Upheld a 2010 Alabama Law that Banned Money Transfers from One Political Action Committee to Another. The stated intent was to Guard against Corruption, but the Law also Hurt the State’s Largest Black Political Organization: the Alabama Democratic Conference, which works to turn out Black Voters. Half or more of its Revenue used to come from other Political Entities. “It’s cut down on money for advertisements, cut down on money on the ground, cut down on money to employ people,” said Joe L. Reed, the A.D.C.’s State Chairman. “It’s just a whole lot of things we would do and could do, we can’t do now.”

6. Voter Rolls are Purged - In 2017, after mailing postcards to every registered voter, Alabama officials listed more than 340,000 voters as inactive, a precursor to removal from the rolls if they don’t vote in the next four years.
Many states use a similar process to identify voters who have moved, but it can be unreliable. And while inactive voters who show up to the polls are supposed to be allowed to vote normally after verifying their registration details, workers wrongly forced many of them to cast provisional ballots in the U.S. Senate special election, according to the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. In fact, in the August primaries, at least two legislators — U.S. Representative Mo Brooks, a Republican, and State Representative Patricia Todd, a Democrat — discovered that they had been marked inactive, though both were able to vote after updating their information.

7. Felon Re-Enfranchisement is not Publicized - In 2017, Gov. Kay Ivey Signed Legislation Re-Enfranchising Thousands of People Convicted of Felonies. Alabama Officials estimated that the change affected 60,000 People. But Refused to use State Resources to Publicize it, or to Automatically Register People who were turned away before it Passed, and a District Judge said he wouldn’t Order him to. Advocacy Groups worry that many affected Alabamians don’t know about the Change. The State has No Statistics on how many Re-Enfranchised People have since Registered to Vote, but said they had seen No Spikes in Weekly Voter Registration Numbers.

After Five years, 2018 has been something of a lull in the Storm of New Voting Laws in Alabama. But Voting Rights Groups are Bracing for 2019, when the State Legislature will Reconvene. “We certainly expect there will be more coming,” said Randall Marshall, Executive Director of the A.C.L.U. of Alabama.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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