The Alabama Democratic Party is still a mess.
Last Thursday, following a vote by the Democratic National Committee’s credentials committee that stripped ADP chairwoman Nancy Worley and vice-chairman Randy Kelly of their credentials, there was widespread joy among Alabama Democrats. A feeling that finally something was being done about the leadership — or lack thereof — at the top of the party.
Not so fast.
In reality, Worley and Kelly are still very much in control of the party, and in those positions, they have the ability to stall, if not outright block, almost all efforts to remove them or rewrite the party’s bylaws in a manner that would limit the power of vice-chairman for minority affairs Joe Reed.
“The party wasn’t really setup at the national level to tell state parties what to do,” said Richard Roucco, a Birmingham attorney who is representing several State Democratic Executive Committee members who challenged last August’s re-election of Worley and Kelly. “They are very hesitant to do that, but they also recognize that Alabama is a unique circumstance. So they have to act.”
The first real action occurred on Thursday, following a contentious meeting in San Francisco, at which Worley essentially told the DNC’s credentials committee that any vote against her was a vote to disenfranchise black voters in Alabama and that the voters who did so would burn in hell. Not exactly the best way to win friends.
Prior to that outburst from Worley, most assumed that the committee still wouldn’t strip her of her credentials, despite months of delays and stall tactics meant to avoid bringing the ADP’s bylaws — specifically in the area of minority outreach — into compliance with DNC bylaws.
The issues with ADP’s bylaws, and the manner in which minority outreach was handled — with Reed essentially handpicking 30-plus at-large members to fill the required minority memberships on the day of leadership elections — led to the invalidating of the elections. That setup, not surprisingly, led to serious allegations of fraud.
The DNC ordered that Worley and her team draft new bylaws that better reflected the goals of the DNC. That would include an outreach to Hispanics, Asians, LGBTQ and youth voters — to the extent that the membership of those groups among the SDEC would be equal to or greater than the percentage of those individuals in the state of Alabama.
That action occurred in February, and the DNC gave Worley until March to act. By June, there had still been little significant effort, because making such changes would inevitably limit the power Reed currently has — which allows him to fill the necessary at-large minority spots — and would wind up with Worley voted out.
That lack of action led to DNC officials sending Worley a lengthy list of suggested changes to the bylaws. She ignored those, as well, and in August, she submitted her own plan. It was soundly rejected by the DNC.
Along the way, DNC officials found themselves in a mind-boggling ordeal, with Worley and the rest of the ADP leadership avoiding their calls and emails and then pretending in ADP meetings that they never received correspondence that every other SDEC member received.
But still, the DNC doesn’t like the idea of the national organization telling state parties how to operate, so DNC officials considered themselves offering guidance and help, not intervening to eradicate a cancer.
All the way up until last Thursday, when six months of stalling and lies, along with a nasty speech, pushed the credentials committee — and later, the full DNC — to punish Worley and Kelly with the only real tools available: pulling credentials.
But that doesn’t really help ADP.
At this point, the state party still must approve the bylaws changes mandated by the DNC. That can’t occur unless Worley distributes proposed changes to voting members for approval, allows for a 30-day comment period and then sets an SDEC meeting to vote on the changes.
So, Worley controls both the changes that will be submitted to the SDEC and whether a meeting is called to vote.
Unless, that is, SDEC members get together and call their own meeting. If 51 percent agree to meet and vote on a set of proposed changes, that’s allowed under party bylaws. But even if that occurs, Worley would preside as the chairman of any called meeting and could control any items brought for a vote.
“The (DNC) party system just wasn’t set up to handle a chairperson who refuses to do anything to help the state party succeed,” said an SDEC member who asked not to be named out of fear of retaliation. “It shouldn’t be a surprise that the (DNC) didn’t envision a scenario in which a state party chairman would work against the party.”
But things are not hopeless. A number of SDEC members, DNC officials and interested parties told me on Monday that tremendous pressure is being placed on ADP leaders, including Worley, to do the right things and stop standing in the way of the proper changes being made. Worley has privately agreed to cooperate with most actions, but it’s unclear how far her cooperation will extend, specifically when it comes to the rewrite of the bylaws.
At a minimum, most can’t imagine new elections being held for two months. Others are less optimistic.
One thing is absolutely clear: The ADP’s troubles are a long way from over.
State awards CARES Act funds to counties for safe elections
The Secretary of State’s office has made available online its records of how it allocated $2.2 million in federal emergency aid money to counties to prepare for the upcoming elections.
The Alabama Secretary of State’s office has made available online its records of how it allocated $2.2 million in federal emergency aid money to its counties to prepare for the upcoming elections amid the pandemic.
The funding is part of $6.5 million Alabama received through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act that Congress passed in March, which contained $400 million dedicated to helping states hold safe elections.
Alabama officials are preparing for the July 14 primary runoff and the general election on Nov. 3.
Secretary of State John Merrill has encouraged officials to purchase masks, gloves, disinfectant spray, cleaning supplies, hand sanitizer, alcohol wipes and professional cleaning services to keep polling places safe and sanitary.
Almost all the 67 counties received exactly what they asked for, save for three: Mobile, Sumter and Tuscaloosa.
Tuscaloosa was awarded $42,766.46 but was denied $178.74 that was requested for bottled water.
“Which should tell you that we read these and went over them with a fine-toothed comb,” Merrill said.
Mobile received the highest amount at nearly half a million dollars. It was denied about $3,000 for video projector equipment that Merrill said could be used for other things and therefore can be applied for through other programs.
Nor did the county get almost $80,000 for mailers to notify voters whose smaller polling locations have been moved to larger spaces per federal social distancing guidelines. Merrill said that mailers have already been sent to every voter, rendering that cost unnecessary. His office also denied more than $15,000 for tents that would have sheltered voters waiting on lines because, he said, seniors can go to the front of any lines and others can wait in their cars if the weather compels them to.
Sumter County was denied $4,430.38 that it wanted to pay for people to take temperatures at polling sites. Merrill said that student volunteers can do that at no cost per state law.
Dallas County was the only county to request funds to supply every poll worker, election official, law enforcement officer and voter with personal protection equipment like masks, gloves, hand sanitizer, face shields and wipes. Officials asked for and received $22,950 for PPE.
“I thought that that was a great use of their resources because they probably would not have been able to purchase something like that,” Merrill said.
Counties will be eligible for another round of funding for the November elections.
National Association for Gun Rights endorses Tuberville
The National Association for Gun Rights Political Action Committee last week announced its endorsement of former Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville in the Republican primary runoff election for U.S. Senate.
NAGR-PAC is an affiliated PAC of the National Association of Gun Rights, which is the nation’s second largest pro-gun organization, which counts 4.5 million members and supporters nationwide.
“Tommy Tuberville scored a perfect 100% on the NAGR survey and has pledged to support the Second Amendment and fight back against illegal gun grabs as a member of the U.S. Senate,” said NAGR-PAC Chairman Dudley Brown. “Tuberville’s position stands is in stark contrast to Jeff Sessions, who has supported gun control his entire career.”
“The fact that Tommy Tuberville is not a career politician is quite refreshing, and we look forward to working with him in the U.S. Senate,” Brown said. “Coach Tuberville is a gun owner who enjoys hunting and understands the importance of our Second Amendment rights.”
Tuberville has made gun rights a cornerstone of his standard campaign speech. Tuberville offered his appreciation for the endorsement and pledged to be the Second Amendment’s staunchest defender on the floor of the U.S. Senate.
“Too many members of the U.S. Congress believe that the Second Amendment is merely a suggestion and not a hard-earned constitutional right,” Tuberville said. “Whether it is for hunting, sport shooting, home defense, or simply because they want one, every law-abiding U.S. citizen has the right to own a gun, and I will go toe-to-toe with any lawmaker who tries to take away that freedom.”
The largest gun rights group in the country, the National Rifle Association, has endorsed Tuberville’s opponent, former Sen. Jeff Sessions, in the primary runoff.
The NAGR-PAC nod follows the endorsement of President Donald Trump, who has publicly thrown his full support behind Tuberville’s campaign and hosted the retired NCAA football coach aboard Air Force One during a recent trip to Texas.
“Every day we see stark reminders that Americans can’t take their safety for granted,” Tuberville said. “The 2nd Amendment enshrines the right to defend yourself and your loved ones from harm. I’m thrilled to have the endorsement of the National Association for Gun Rights, and will always be a staunch defender of our right to bear arms!”
Tuberville lives in Auburn. He is a native of Arkansas and has been a head football coach for Auburn University, the University of Mississippi, Texas Tech University and the University of Cincinnati. Tuberville was also defensive coordinator at the University of Miami and Texas A&M.
The winner of the Republican nomination will face Democratic Sen. Doug Jones, D-Alabama, in the Nov. 3 general election.
Barry Moore emphasizes support for Trump in debate
Congressional candidates Barry Moore and Jeff Coleman both participated in a debate in Dothan on Tuesday, ahead of their runoff in Alabama’s 2nd Congressional District. Moore emphasized his long-standing support for President Donald Trump as well as his farm and military roots and experience serving in the Alabama Legislature.
“I want to thank WTVY for sponsoring this debate, and Reginald Jones for doing such a great job moderating the event,” Moore said in a statement to reporters afterwards. “I’d also like to thank those who watched it live, and who will watch it later online. The people deserved a chance to see both Republican candidates side by side, and WTVY made that possible despite the coronavirus pandemic.”
“Before the lockdown, we ran a strong grassroots campaign, but these last few weeks we’ve had to switch to more social media and online campaigning while trying to help everyone cope with the lockdown as best we could,” Moore said. “Now the people have seen the two of us standing side by side, and they’ve seen us answer questions about the issues and our records. For those who missed seeing it live, we’ve posted it to our campaign Facebook page. I encourage everyone to watch that video and see just who you’ll be voting for next Tuesday.”
“I think that when people see Barry Moore side by side with Jeff Coleman, they’ll realize that Barry Moore is the best conservative choice for District 2,” Moore said. “I’ve supported our President since I was the first elected official in the country to endorse him. I’ve supported our farmers because I grew up on a row crop farm and I know the challenges they face. I’ve supported our military and our Veterans because I’ve served. I term-limited myself in the Legislature, and I support term limits for Congress. I’ve always been pro-life, pro-family, pro-1st, and pro-2nd Amendments. I’ll continue to do all these things when I’m representing the people of this district in Congress.”
There had been some issues between the two campaigns on a debate date that both could agree on.
“I am glad that Mr. Coleman decided to show up to this debate and I want to thank him as well,” Moore concluded.
Moore represented Enterprise in the Alabama legislature from 2010 to 2008. He was part of the first class of Republican legislators to win control of the state Legislature, ending 135 years of Democratic Party dominance. Moore and his wife Heather own a small waste disposal business. Moore is also a veteran, has a degree in agriculture, and is a father.
Moore and Coleman are running in the Republican primary runoff on July 14. The winner will face Democrat Phyllis Harvey-Hall in the November 3 general election. Incumbent Congresswoman Martha Roby, R-Alabama, is retiring after five terms.
ACLU joins lawsuit over Alabama voting amid COVID-19 pandemic
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of several voters who are at greater risk from complications or death due to COVID-19.
The American Civil Liberties Union and its Alabama chapter have joined in a lawsuit attempting to make it easier for some voters to cast their ballot during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The American Civil Liberties Union and ACLU of Alabama joined in the lawsuit filed in May by the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Southern Poverty Law Center and Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program against Gov. Kay Ivey and Secretary of State John Merrill.
The U.S. Supreme Court in a 5-4 decision last week blocked U.S. District Judge Abdul Kallon’s order that would have allowed curbside voting statewide and waived certain absentee ballot requirements for voters in at least Jefferson, Mobile and Lee Counties.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of several voters who are at greater risk from complications or death due to COVID-19.
The lawsuit was also brought on behalf of People First of Alabama, Greater Birmingham Ministries, the Alabama State Conference of the NAACP and Black Voters Matter Capacity Building Institute.
With the Supreme Court’s decision, voters in the upcoming July 14 Republican runoff election will have to submit a copy of their photo ID and have either two adult witnesses sign their absentee ballot requests or have it notarized.
“Alabama is in the middle of a deadly and ongoing pandemic but is refusing to take common-sense steps to protect the public’s health and their right to vote for all elections in 2020. That’s why we are taking legal action,” said Alora Thomas-Lundborg, senior staff attorney with the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project in a statement.
“In the midst of an out-of-control pandemic, Alabama officials should be doing everything they can to ensure that all voters have a safe, fair, and equal opportunity to cast a ballot. Instead, officials have chosen politics over public health and safety. They are fighting to make it harder to cast a ballot and have that ballot counted. This litigation is crucial to ensure safe, fair, and equal opportunity to vote,” said Randall Marshall, executive director of the ACLU of Alabama, in a statement.
“As we head into preparations for the November general election with COVID-19 cases rising in Alabama, it is critical that our election officials take seriously the protection of voters, poll workers, and our democracy,” said Caren Short, senior staff attorney for SPLC in a statement. “In this critical election season, we are grateful to have Black Voters Matter Capacity Building Institute, the ACLU, and the ACLU of Alabama join this effort to ensure that every voter is heard. No voter should have to choose between exercising their fundamental right to vote and their health or the health of a loved one.”
Deuel Ross, NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund senior counsel, said in a statement that over the July 4th weekend, Alabama reported nearly 5,000 new coronavirus cases.
“Yet, state leaders insist on enforcing draconian restrictions on in-person and absentee voting that no other state finds necessary to combat the almost nonexistent issue of voter fraud,” Ross said. “These restrictions are needless in normal circumstances. They are deadly in a pandemic. At trial in September, we will work to make sure that state leaders comply with their constitutional duty to protect the rights and safety of all voters.”
In a Tweet on July 2, Alabama’s Secretary of State John Merrill expressed gratitude for the Supreme Court’s decision.
“With the news that we have received a Stay in this process, I am excited that the United States Supreme Court has ruled in favor of those who believe in strict interpretation of the Constitution and has decided to grant the Stay and not endorse legislating from the bench,” Merrill said in the tweet.