By Rep. Darrio Melton
In last week’s primary election, Mississippi Senate candidates were furious that they believed Democratic voters crossed over to vote in the Republican Primary to choose a candidate.
In our own primaries in early June, several Republican incumbent legislators were defeated, and they blamed cross-over voting, as well.
This has lead to rampant discussion of closing off Alabama’s primaries to ensure that only Democrats can vote in the Democratic Primary and Republicans can vote in the Republican Primary. Independent voters would have to wait until November to cast a ballot.
As legislators and as citizens, we must ask ourselves: Is the time right to make more changes to Alabama’s voting laws during a time when the state is still struggling to fully implement a new voter identification law? Do we really need more restrictions on who can cast ballots?
Meanwhile, early vote has started in Georgia’s primary runoff election. Early vote is something we aren’t familiar with here in Alabama. From June 30 to July 18, Georgia voters can head to polling places to cast their ballots.
Georgia and many other states with similar policies understand that sometimes, voting on Election Day can be problematic. Alabama allows you to vote absentee if you are sick, working or out of town, but sometimes the car breaks down. Sometimes you get called into work. Sometimes the baby gets sick.
Early vote isn’t the only way states offer a solution to those days when “life happens.” Some states allow you to vote by mail, which is a similar process to voting absentee, but you don’t have to have a documented reason for choosing this method of voting.
Rather than trying to close off our elections by requiring photo identification and requiring voters to re-register with a specific party, we could reform our elections to allow more people to cast their ballots.
For what it would cost the tax payers to re-register over two million voters, we could implement early vote, vote by mail, electronic voter registration and same-day voter registration to make the polls more open and accessible to all Alabamians.
For this reason, I plan to sponsor legislation for the second year in a row to allow voters to register at the polls on Election Day and a new bill to allow the Secretary of State to set up an online voter registration system.
If we want to embrace liberty and justice for all, we must embrace everyone’s right to vote. If we want to be the land of the free and the home of the brave, we must protect the cornerstone of Democracy.
Rather than making voting more difficult and more complicated for our citizens, let’s open the process to ensure every eligible voter can have a say in the government.
Darrio Melton is a Democrat from Selma. He was elected to the Alabama House of Representatives in 2010.