By Sam Mattison
Alabama Political Reporter
House Bill 150, which concerned re-organizing the management of the Board of Registrars, failed Tuesday in a split vote of 43-43.
The Board of Registrars control the registration of voters within a county and are appointed by the Governor. HB150 would have made the positions reviewable by the appointing authorities and would have made any Registrar who was fired not eligible for any other appointable position.
It also would have made the hours of operation of the Board of Registrars to coincide with the hours of the courthouse in the county.
The management of voter registration and voter ID was highlighted last year when Alabama decided to close multiple driver’s license offices in rural area of Alabama.
The move was seen by some as a move to restrict racial minorities access to driver’s licenses. These licenses are a form of ID used for voting. Governor Bentley later announced that the offices would stay opened but the hours would be reduced.
Alan Baker (R-Baldwin) the sponsor of HB150, said that the current system leads to “underperforming” registrars. Baker said that the Board of Registrars have not been required to have certain technical skills like how to operate a computer.
Baker said the bill would allow a Board of Registrar member to be fired for any reason and not just for underperformance by a managing body. Baker said the managing body would probably consist of the Governor, Secretary of State, State Auditor and Commissioner of Agriculture and Industry.
Alvin Holmes (D-Montgomery) had other concerns about the bill. Holmes said that the racial minority voice would not be heard with this House Bill. He said that the managing body consisted of only white people.
“That’s a white commission,” Holmes said.
Holmes then suggested an amendment to the bill which would allow for a special minority appointment to the managing body. Baker suggested that elected officials are the best fit for the managing body.
Holmes later retracted his proposal in lieu of a diversity statement within the amended bill. The statement would put a greater emphasis on appointing registrars to promote gender, racial, urban, rural and economic diversity. The statement was already in the bill before Holmes brought up any concerns.
The other major opposition to the bill was the perceived power grab by State officials such as the Secretary of State. Thomas Jackson (D-Baldwin) was one of the vocal opposition to the bill.
“To some it may be a step forward, but to others it might be a step forward,” Jackson said.
After much debate and amending the bill was finally axed due to a split vote.