By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY—On Thursday, as storms rolled in over the State, Senator Paul Sanford (R–Huntsville) caused a tempest of his on with SB125. The bill designed to save the State over a million dollars an election cycle was killed when Sanford could not muster enough Republican votes to pass the BIR.
“I cannot believe the Senate refused to limit costly abuses by some elected officials in our state,” said Senator Sanford.
The senator was referring to a practice whereby Probate Judges are paid a nickel for each name compiled on the voters list.
Under existing law, the judge of probate receives five cents a name for providing the election inspector with a list of the qualified electors in the county on election day. Sanford’s bill would repeal this payment.
The payment to the Judge of Probate was enacted at a time when lists had to be compiled by hand. It was suppose to give the judge money to hire additional staff for the work. However, over the years, judges have been accused of abusing their office because this “nickel-a-name” has become part of the judge’s compensation. For instance if a county has two hundred thousand voters on the list a probate judge would receive $10,000.00 for one voters list. Under current law, the list must be “downloaded” three times. Under current law that list must also be published three times in the local newspaper. These newspapers charge many thousands of dollars for such publication. Under state law and the rules of the Alabama Press Association, only certain newspapers meet the qualification to print voters list. Printing such list are very lucrative business for newspapers who have the state-mandated monopoly.
According to Sanford, The Association of County Commissions estimates total savings of approximately $1.5 million in the 2014 election cycle after passage of this bill. Counties would save approximately $700,000, and the state General Fund would save approximately $775,000.
Sanford said, “SB125 will save hard-earned taxpayer dollars while preserving free and fair elections in Alabama.” Senator Sanford’s bill seeks to do the following: Downsize election-related newspaper advertising and shift it to the web. Limit probate judges to one payment per election for downloading state voter lists. Pay absentee election managers for work on weekdays that are not state holidays.
“It seems that common-sense, practical efficiencies like limiting a probate judge to only receiving payment of a nickel a name for generating the county voter list is less popular than allowing over 20 of the 67 Probate Judges across Alabama to receive payment for two or three lists. That is an abuse of power and an absolute waste of taxpayer funds, especially in tough economic conditions,” added Sanford.
The Senator extracted some measure of revenge for the lack of support for his bill by holding the Senate well into the afternoon. But, with severe storms approaching, Sanford relented and the Senate adjourned.
Republicans who voted for the BIR were: Jerry Fielding, Rusty Glover, Arthur Orr, Harri Anne Smith, Bryan Taylor, Bill Hightower, Shadrack McGill, Trip Pittman and Sanford.
Republicans who voted against the BIR were Gerald Allen, Gerald Dial, Jimmy Holley, Phil Williams and Tom Whatley.
Republicans voting Present were Scott Beason, Slade Blackwell, Paul Bussman, Del Marsh, Greg Reed, Clay Scofield, Cam Ward, Dick Brewbaker and Jabo Waggoner.
All Democrats voted against the measure with the exception of Hank Sanders, Roger Bedford, and Billy Beasley who voted present also.