By Lee Hedgepeth
Alabama Political Reporter
The Alabama State Conference of the NAACP, Project Vote, and several other voting rights advocacy groups have announced an agreement with Secretary of State Jim Bennett that will involve Medicaid, Social Security, and other public programs actively providing those who sign up or change their address with voter registration forms.
The Secretary of State has said that the plan is necessary to further comply with the National Voter Registration Act, or motor voter act, which aims to promote voter registration and participation. He also said it would avoid future litigation costs on the issue.
“When you boil it down,” he said, “it’s about compliance with a Federal mandate,”
The measure is likely to help Democrats in the future, as low-income individuals are much more likely to vote for progressives. According to a Columbia University study:
“In national elections, richer individuals are more likely to vote Republican. This difference has persisted with few exceptions since the New Deal era.”
A similar plan in Ohio increased voter registration nearly ten times, from 25,000 to 200,000 a year.
While this agreement, which ironically lasts until November 2016, may indeed help Democrats down the road, many recent election changes promulgated by the Republican Secretary of State have been to their disadvantage.
For example, with major GOP candidates having already announced and Democrats scurrying at the last minute, Bennett announced last week that the qualifying deadline for 2014 candidates was to be moved back months earlier to February 7th . The Secretary said the reason for the change was to better comply with federal military and overseas citizen voting laws, as the US Department of Justice had preliminarily filed suit. (Indeed, little collaboration seems to occur between the national Democrats and the Alabama Democrats, with nearly all of the state party’s picks for judgeship nominations being pushed aside again and again.)
The Alabama Political Reporter recently reported on a bill sponsored by Republican John Merrill that is to be considered in the upcoming legislative session that would make it a crime to fail to turn in voter registration forms for malicious, partisan purposes. While the original intent of the bill seems benign and beneficial, many on the left say it is merely a campaign to scare activists away from legitimate voter registration drive efforts.
While all these recent moves can be seen through political eyes, seemingly with partisan intention, they can also be viewed in a contrary, unbiased light. Taken out of the context of the political theater, all of these efforts can be seen as trying to ever increase citizen participation in around the Yellowhammer State, and to know Alabamians genuinely are electing representatives to our State House in Montgomery.
Alabama has in recent years seen a flurry of action on the issue of voting with varied purpose and effect. The Voter ID law passed in 2011 goes into effect with the June primaries this year. Lieutenant Governor Ivey announced in a recent newsletter that even more legislation will be introduced this year to supplement military voting accommodations in compliance with federal standards. On all fronts the issue seems to be at the top of the agenda.
Current standards provide for voter registration forms to be available at public assistance offices, but they are not required to actively offer benefit recipients the opportunity to register.
Election and voter registration information is available at the Secretary of State’s website,