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NAACP and other Groups Threaten Alabama with Litigation

By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

Groups who want more minority and poor voters registered in Alabama sent a letter to Alabama Secretary of State Beth Chapman.  The groups also issued a press release to The Alabama Political Reporter and other news outlets with their demands.

The groups claim that the State of Alabama is in violation of the federal government’s National Voters Registration Act (NVRA) and the groups threaten to sue the state on behalf of the Alabama State Conference of the NAACP if Alabama does not “bring the state into full compliance with the law.”

The groups include: the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Demos, and Project Vote.  They claim that under the NVRA the federal government demands that the State of Alabama’s public assistance agencies which administer federal programs like Temporary Aid to Needy Families (TANF), Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly Food Stamps), and Medicaid must provide voter registration services to their applicants and clients.

The counsel at Demos, Adam Lioz said, “The freedom to vote is how Americans, regardless of class or race, maintain power over decisions that affect their lives, and government must vigorously promote that freedom through the NVRA.  Right now, Alabama is failing its citizens and preventing too many of the 99 percent from registering to vote, giving the 1 percent further sway over our democracy.”

Bob Kengle, co-director of the Lawyers’ Committee’s Voting Rights Project, said, “Alabama public officials must take seriously their legal responsibility to provide voter registration services to the State’s public assistance clients.  As we have seen in other states, Alabama officials have not prioritized this responsibility without the prospect of litigation.”

The President of the Alabama State Conference of the NAACP, Benard Simelton said, “Alabama is neglecting a serious responsibility to its low-income residents.  Every year, the NAACP spends more and more resources to pick up the slack by running voter registration drives in our communities.  Now we’re taking action to hold the state accountable for doing its part.”

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The Director of the Public Agency Voter Registration Program for Project Vote, Sarah Brannon said, “When done properly, public agency registration is one of the most effective means of ensuring that all citizens are offered the opportunity to participate in their government.  It reaches people who are less likely to register to vote through other means, including low-income residents, minorities, the elderly, and the disabled.”

The groups cite their successes in lawsuits against the states of Missouri and Ohio as cases where these tactics have worked to force state governments to increase voter registrations among the impoverished at state expense.   The groups have also settled cases recently in New Mexico, Indiana, and Georgia.  They claim that Alabama is in violation of Section 7 of the NVRA.  In their statement they claim that, “The vast majority of DHR and Medicaid applicants and clients are not being offered voter registration opportunities, and many agency offices do not even have voter registration applications on hand.”  The attorneys for the Democratic Party allied groups are giving the state the option of complying with their demands before filing suit.

Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.

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