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Libertarians sue Alabama claiming discrimination against third parties

Chip Brownlee | The Trace

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For the two major parties in Alabama, getting a list of registered voters is relatively easy. Just ask for it, and it’s free.

But for third parties, like the Libertarian Party of Alabama, getting a list like that costs money — about $34,000, or one cent a name.

A credit or debit card fee adds an additional $850.

For any political party, a list of registered voters is a near necessity, and the Libertarian Party says the costs, for them, are massive and unfair.

At least, that’s what they allege in a federal lawsuit filed Thursday against Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill, which alleges state discrimination against minor parties like theirs that are trying to get ballot access.

“Having a copy of Alabama’s statewide voter registration list provides a distinct advantage to any political party trying to obtain access to the ballot in Alabama and trying to transmit its political message to Alabama voters in order to obtain their support for ballot access, increase their ability to associate with others who share their political philosophy and goals and, ultimately to obtain additional votes,” the lawsuit reads.

It’s already hard for minor parties to get on the ballot. For access to the statewide ballot, say, for a position like senator in 2020, they have to collect nearly 52,000 signatures.

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Charging for the registered voter list is “just one more obstacle Alabama places in the way of minor parties to try to prevent them from growing and to gaining access to the ballot.”

Once a major party is on the ballot, it’s relatively easy for them to stay on the ballot. If a candidate is able to garner 20 percent of the vote in a statewide race, then their party stays on the ballot without having to gather signatures the next time around.

The libertarians are far from reaching 20 percent of the vote, so they must collect signatures on a petition every time they want to run.

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The lawsuit says Alabama law “unconstitutionally discriminates between major political parties and minor political parties, in an effort to, and with the direct effect of … creating obstacles which make it more difficult for a minor political party like the LPA to establish itself and grow, garner support, gain access to the ballot in Alabama, and obtain votes in order to grow and have its members and followers hold public elective office.”

Recent court decisions in Georgia and Michigan have given libertarians hope that they could succeed in federal court. Lawsuits in those states ruled ballot access barriers unconstitutional.

The lawsuit is asking the court to overturn the law and issue an injunction prohibiting the secretary of state from enforcing the statutes in question.

 

Chip Brownlee is a former political reporter, online content manager and webmaster at the Alabama Political Reporter. He is now a reporter at The Trace, a non-profit newsroom covering guns in America.

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Voting rights activist calls for federal Department of Democracy

LaTosha Brown, a Selma native who co-founded Black Voters Matter, issued a statement saying that it is time to reimagine American democracy.

Micah Danney

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(VIA BLACK VOTERS MATTER)

The co-founder of an organization that is working to mobilize Black voters in Alabama and elsewhere used the 55th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act on Thursday to call for a new federal agency to protect voting rights nationwide.

LaTosha Brown, a Selma native who co-founded Black Voters Matter, issued a statement saying that it is time to reimagine American democracy.

“The Voting Rights Act should be reinstated, but only as a temporary measure. I want and deserve better, as do more than 300 million of my fellow Americans,” Brown said.

The U.S. Supreme Court invalidated a key provision of the law in a 5-4 ruling in 2013, eliminating federal oversight that required jurisdictions with a history of discrimination to get approval before they changed voting rules.

“To ensure that the Voter’s Bill of Rights is enforced, we need a federal agency at the cabinet level, just like the Department of Defense,” Brown said. “A Department of Democracy would actively look at the patchwork of election systems across the 50 states and territories. With federal oversight, our nation can finally fix the lack of state accountability that currently prevails for failure to ensure our democratic right to vote.”

She cited excessively long lines, poll site closings and voter ID laws in the recent primaries in Wisconsin, Georgia, Kentucky and Texas as voter suppression techniques that disproportionately affect Black and other communities of color.

Brown said that the July 17 passing of Rep. John Lewis, who was nearly killed marching for voting rights in Selma in 1965, has amplified calls for the Voting Rights Act to be strengthened. That’s the right direction, she said, but it isn’t enough.

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“History happens in cycles, and we are in a particularly intense one. We have been fighting for the soul of democracy, kicking and screaming and marching and protesting its erosion for decades,” Brown said.

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Elections

Alabama Forestry Association endorses Jerry Carl

Brandon Moseley

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Congressional candidate Jerry Carl.

The Alabama Forestry Association on Thursday announced its endorsement of Republican 1st Congressional District candidate Jerry Carl.

“Jerry Carl has experience working closely with the forest products industry in his role as County Commissioner and will carry that knowledge to Washington,” said AFA Executive Vice President Chris Isaacson. “Throughout his career, he has been a strong advocate for limited government and free markets and will continue to promote those same values in Congress. We are proud to endorse him.”

Carl is a small businessman who has started more than 10 small businesses in South Alabama, creating hundreds of jobs. He is currently serving on the Mobile County Commission.

“I am thrilled to earn the endorsement of ForestPAC,” Carl said. “Alabama has a thriving network of hard-working men and women in all aspects of the forestry community, and I look forward to being a strong, pro-business voice for them in Congress. As a lifelong businessman and an owner of timberland, I understand firsthand the needs and concerns of the forestry community, and I will be a tireless advocate in Washington for Alabama’s forest industry.”

Carl said that he was inspired to run for the Mobile County Commission when he became frustrated with the local government.

He and his wife, Tina, have been married for 39 years. They have three children and two grandchildren.

Carl faces Democratic nominee James Averhart in the Nov. 3 general election. Incumbent U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne, who currently represents the 1st Congressional District, did not run for another term and has endorsed Carl.

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Alabama Forestry Association endorses Tuberville

Brandon Moseley

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Republican U.S. Senate candidate Tommy Tuberville.

The Alabama Forestry Association announced Wednesday that the group is endorsing Republican Senate nominee Tommy Tuberville in the upcoming general election.

“We are proud to endorse Tommy Tuberville in the United States Senate race,” said AFA Executive Vice President Chris Isaacson. “He is a conservative with an impressive list of accomplishments, and we know that he will continue that record in his role as U.S. Senator. Tommy knows that decisions made in Washington impact families and businesses and will be an effective voice for the people of Alabama.”

“I am honored to have the endorsement of the Alabama Forestry Association,” Tuberville said. “The AFA is an excellent organization that stands for pro-business policies. Protecting Alabama industry is a key to our state’s success.”

Tuberville recently won the Republican nomination after a primary season that was extended because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Tuberville is a native of Arkansas and a graduate of Southern Arkansas University. He held a number of assistant coaching positions, including defensive coordinator at Texas A&M and the University of Miami where he won a national championship.

Tuberville has been a head coach at Mississippi, Auburn, Texas Tech and Cincinnati. In his nine years at Auburn University, the team appeared in eight consecutive bowl games. His 2004 team won the SEC Championship and the Sugar Bowl.

Tuberville coached that team to a perfect 13 to 0 season.

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Tuberville has been married to his wife Suzanne since 1991. They have two sons and live in Auburn.

Tuberville is challenging incumbent Democratic Sen. Doug Jones in the Nov. 3 general election.

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Jones campaign says Tuberville is not taking the pandemic seriously

Brandon Moseley

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Incumbent Sen. Doug Jones, left, and Republican challenger Tommy Tubberville, right.

Incumbent Democratic Sen. Doug Jones’ re-election campaign released a statement critical of Republican Senate nominee Tommy Tuberville, suggesting that he is not taking the COVID-19 pandemic seriously enough.

“The Washington Post reported today that the stock market plummeted after jobless claims climbed last week by 1.4 million and the economy shrank by 9.5 percent — the biggest decline in most of our lifetimes,” the Jones campaign wrote. “While economists are worried about the permanent damage COVID-19 will do to the economy, and public health experts are pleading for people to abide by state and local mask orders, Tommy Tuberville ‘snickers’ in response to questions about flouting public health orders while in DC to raise campaign cash. The people of Alabama need to know that Tuberville is not taking the pandemic seriously, raising serious questions about how he would handle this crisis if elected.”

The Washington Post reported that “Tuberville is fundraising and holding ­in-person meetings in Washington this week, defying orders from D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) that visitors from Alabama and other coronavirus hot spots quarantine for 14 days upon arrival.”

“Tuberville spent at least some of his time at the Trump International Hotel, according to a photo posted to Facebook by Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.) showing the two men in the hotel lobby on Tuesday night,” the media reports stated. “Neither man was masked.”

Tuberville told AL.com that he has been called “everything in the world” so the last week is nothing new.

The Washington Post reported Wednesday the former Auburn coach broke Washington D.C. policy requiring “non-essential” visitors from states with high coronavirus case counts to self-quarantine for 14 days when he attended fundraising meetings in the city this week. In addition, a photo of Tuberville with Rep. Bruce Westerman, R-Arkansas, at the Trump International Hotel in Washington showed neither man wearing a face covering.

Tuberville addressed the controversy in comments to the Alabama Republican Executive Committee on Saturday. Tuberville said that he followed all the rules and wore his mask everywhere he went. When he was at events he would take his mask off to dine and people would come over to his table to shake his hand and get their picture taken. The press has seized on those moments to attack him, he claimed.

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The COVID-19 global pandemic has killed 707,158 people worldwide including 160,833 Americans since it first was discovered in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China in late 2019. Absent an effective treatment or a vaccine, social distancing and masks are the only tools that we have to slow the spread of the virus.

The Tuberville-Jones race for U.S. Senate is going to have an important role in whether or not Republicans are able to hold on to their narrow Senate majority.

Tuberville is an Arkansas native. He is best known for his tenure as Auburn University’s head football coach, which includes an undefeated and untied team that won the SEC Championship and the Sugar Bowl. He also coached at Texas Tech, Cincinnati and Mississippi.

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The general election is Nov. 3. Tuberville has been endorsed by President Donald Trump.

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