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Opinion | Voter suppression is still a deciding factor in Alabama elections

Josh Moon

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John Merrill is going to write me a snarky letter, and that’s OK. 

I’m going to write a snarky column about Alabama’s voter suppression — and Merrill’s role in it — and I don’t write these things expecting everyone to agree. I write them so at least a few people will at least consider that the way things are in this state aren’t the way they have to be. 

And nowhere is that more true than with Alabama’s access to the ballot box. 

Now, before Merrill and the other rightwing hacks start banging out replies, let’s get a few things straight. Because while all of them will be entitled to their own opinions, they won’t be entitled to their own facts. 

A standard response from the right whenever these matters of ballot access pop up is to demand to know the identity of a single person who lacks the ability or necessary access to be able to vote. Name someone, Merrill loves to say, and I’ll go to their house and make sure … blah, blah, blah. 

But this is not the point, and they know it. 

As the Southern Poverty Law Center points out in a new report, what Alabama lawmakers have done is to place speed bumps between voters and the ballot in the hopes that with enough speed bumps they can discourage certain targeted groups from voting. 

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That’s the point of Alabama’s voter ID law. And it’s not hard to prove. 

Correspondence between lawmakers in North Carolina — which has ID laws that Alabama lawmakers essentially copied — laid bare just how targeted and intentionally suppressive the ID law was in that state. A federal judge wrote that it targeted black voters with “surgical precision.” 

The same thing is happening here. Because the same laws are being used here. 

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ID laws largely target poor, minority communities and young people, and they establish a barrier between those would-be voters and the polls. They also do absolutely zero to prevent fraud in this state. 

It doesn’t matter how many roving caravans Merrill and his staff set up to get IDs to people. The fact remains that thousands of people are being forced to take an extra step, and/or pay extra money, to cast a legal vote. 

Under our old system, which allowed dozens of different forms to establish a voter’s ID, we had zero issues. In fact, in the last 30 years, there has been one instance in which a voter’s identity was stolen and an illegal ballot cast. And that one instance was caught and prosecuted. 

Whenever a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist is implemented into law, you can bet that the goal wasn’t to actually solve a problem. It was to create one for someone else. 

Alabama doesn’t stop there. 

In addition to a worthless ID law, we also don’t offer same-day — or even same-week — voter registration. Instead, the deadline to register is 14 days prior to an election, which, in this cyber world where everything is handled by computers, is an eternity. 

It used to be just seven days. But after the Voting Rights Act was gutted a few years ago, Alabama lawmakers took the opportunity to target a handful of different groups. They got minority voters with the ID laws, and they took aim at young voters by toying with the registration laws. 

Young voters tend to procrastinate and tend to be driven by their peers. As the hype around an election grows, the more interested they become.

And since young people tend to vote for Democrats, well, I think you see how we got here. 

That’s not all. 

There is also no automatic voter registration in Alabama, which makes no sense with the voter ID law in place. If you have the proper ID, why in the world couldn’t you register online and go vote the same day? Why couldn’t you fill out the registration form at the polling place? 

None of it makes any sense, unless, of course, your goal isn’t to make the process of registering to vote as easy as possible, but is instead to deter certain groups of people from casting a ballot. 

To be clear, I don’t necessarily blame Merrill for any of this, and you shouldn’t either. As far as Republican secretaries of state go, he hasn’t been that bad, and has on many occasions gone out of his way to offset the negative effects of these suppressive laws. 

That said, voting and ballot access is within the purview of the SOS’s office, and as such, Merrill has a duty to speak up when unfair laws are passed and implemented. He has a duty to correct injustices in the state’s voting processes, and he has a duty to inform the Legislature when laws they pass are having a negative effect. 

It doesn’t matter the percentage of people that Merrill’s office has registered to vote, or how many registrations he’s managed from his caravan. 

The goal is fair elections. And Alabama’s are far from it.

 

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Elections

Opponents accuse Tuberville of supporting amnesty for undocumented immigrants

Brandon Moseley

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The Senate campaign is heating up as the top three candidates are all going negative. Former Auburn head football coach Tommy Tuberville has attacked Congressman Bradley Byrne (R-Montrose) and former Attorney General and Senator Jeff Sessions of being career politicians. Both Byrne and Tuberville have attacked Sessions for not having adequately served President Donald J. Trump (R) while Attorney General. Byrne has even attacked Tuberville’s coaching abilities. The latest attacks on Tuberville accuse him of supporting amnesty for illegal aliens. Sessions even accused Tuberville of being a “tourist.”

Wednesday, Sessions announced a new television ad called “Tuberville for Amnesty.”

Byrne and Tuberville point to an August speech by Coach Tuberville when he said: “There are people coming across the border that need jobs… and we want them to come over here… Let em’ come in and become citizens like we all became citizens.”

The Tuberville campaign called the attack “fake news” on Twitter.

Sessions’ campaign manager Jon Jones said, “Tuberville is claiming that his own words are ‘fake news.’ All of them? Tommy Tuberville needs to read the transcript. It is clear that Tuberville supports immigration amnesty, and he is attempting to trick Alabama voters to believe otherwise. In contrast, Jeff Sessions has done more than just say he wants to fix the border – he has already worked alongside President Trump to stop illegal immigration.”

The new Sessions ad reads: “Tuberville is trying to trick you, hiding his support for immigration amnesty.” Then plays an audio clip of the Tuberville comment from August

Tuesday, Byrne told reporters in Trussville: “I can tell you right now this issue about Tommy Tuberville’s position on amnesty is a key issue. And so we’re going to keep telling people about his position on that and let him explain why he doesn’t think that’s amnesty.”

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“Let em’ come in and become citizens like we all became citizens,” Tuberville is quoted in the ad.

Tuberville has denied supporting amnesty and says that he supports President Trump’s immigration agenda.

The Sessions ad further charges: “And Tuberville’s not even from Alabama, he’s a tourist here. He lives, pays taxes and even votes in Florida.”

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On Tuesday, the Tuberville campaign responded with an attack ad of their own.

“The career politicians are desperate to hang on to their paychecks and power, so they have started airing negative ads full of false attacks and baseless distortions,” Tuberville said. “Our new commercial allows us to respond with some hard truths about which candidate wants to drain the D.C. swamp and is tough enough to actually help President Trump get the job done.”

The Tuberville ad has Byrne with former Secretary Hillary Clinton and Sessions with Congressman Adam Schiff (D-California) who led the impeachment effort against President Trump. The ad even connects Sessions and Byrne with Sen. Mitt Romney (the only Republican in either House of Congress who found that the President did anything wrong.)

State Representative Arnold Mooney, former Chief Justice Roy Moore, Ruth Page Nelson, and businessman Stanley Adair are also running for the Republican nomination for the Senate seat currently held by Doug Jones (D).

The Republican primary is March 3.

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Elections

Republicans criticize Jones over his “stupid question” response to a constituent

Brandon Moseley

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Republicans are criticizing U.S. Senator Doug Jones, D-Alabama, for a flippant response to a constituent asking how he will vote on a bill that would ban late-term abortions.

While Walking into an Alabama Employer Health Policy Discussion in Birmingham today, Jones had this interaction with a constituent:

The constituent asked: “Do you think abortion should be banned after 5 months?”

Sen. Jones responded, “What a stupid question.”

Constituent: “You’re voting on it next week.”

Senate candidate Congressman Bradley Byrne (R-Montrose) said, “Doug may find the sanctity of life funny now, but he won’t find it funny when we fire him in November. I’m running for Senate to ensure we have a Pro-Life, Pro-Trump fighter representing the people of Alabama in the U.S. Senate.”

Marjorie Dannenfelser is the President of the national pro-life group Susan B. Anthony List (SBA List).

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“Senator Doug Jones has proven once again that he is no moderate when it comes to abortion on demand through the moment of birth. Alabama’s Democratic senator may think it is ‘stupid’ to question his abortion extremism, but rest assured, his constituents take respect for human life very seriously,” President Dannenfelser said. “With a record of voting in favor of late-term abortion more than halfway through pregnancy and forced taxpayer funding of abortion, Sen. Jones has repeatedly betrayed Alabamians, siding with the radical abortion lobby and fellow extremist Democrats in Congress. Their agenda is dramatically out of step with the people of Alabama and the strong majority of Americans – including 55 percent of Independents and 43 percent of rank-and-file Democrats – who support compassionate limits on abortion after five months of pregnancy, when science clearly shows unborn babies can feel excruciating pain. If Senator Jones refuses to protect innocent unborn children, he won’t be laughing come Election Day.”

Alabama voters have approved a constitutional amendment that will ban abortion in the state when the U.S. Supreme Court overturns the controversial Roe vs. Wade decision.

Trump Victory National Finance Committee member Perry O. Hooper Jr. said in a statement, “This is a broken record with Doug Jones. It appears he bends over backwards to slap
Alabamians in the face. Always ignoring what Alabamians believe. We are Pro-Life. He is pro-abortion, it is that simple. He is a broken record. Never standing for Alabama values; He is a died in the wool leftist its that plain and simple. Abortion upon demand until birth is his mantra. He has no regard for human life unless they are on death row confected of multiple homicides. These are his victims not innocent children killed in the womb.”

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Defeating Doug Jones and taking back the Senate seat is a top priority of Alabama Republicans.

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Elections

Hasdorff calls for “out-of-touch” Mike Bloomberg to visit an Alabama Farm

Brandon Moseley

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Republican 2nd Congressional District candidate Terri Hasdorff challenged billionaire Democratic Presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg to come visit an Alabama farm.

Hasdorff’s comments followed the re-release of Bloomberg statements dismissing farmers as lacking the “grey matter” to do other jobs.

In a 2016 speech at Oxford University in England, the former New York City Mayor said that he “could teach anybody, even the people in this room” to be a farmer. “You dig a hole, you put a seed in, you put dirt on top, add water, up comes the corn.”

“I am appalled at how out-of-touch Mr. Bloomberg is about how much work goes into successful farming,” Hasdorff said. “I’m personally inviting him to Alabama’s Second District where I would be happy to take him to one of our nearly 10,000 farms and give him a tour maybe we can even get him to roll up his sleeves and put in a little bit of real work!”

Alabama has a long, storied history as an agricultural states Even now, agriculture and forestry remains the largest industry in the state of Alabama.

“Alabama’s farmers are the backbone of our state,” Hasdorff continued. “The fact that someone like Michael Bloomberg feels he is entitled to belittle their hard work is appalling – but this is what the far left really thinks of real America. This is what out of touch Democrats and coastal elites believe. Mr. Bloomberg was just the one caught on tape.”

Hasdorff is part of a crowded Republican primary field on March 3. The Alabama Democratic presidential primary is also on March 3.

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“This is why I’m running for Congress,” Hasdorff added. “We need leaders who understand the needs and struggles of hard-working Americans – farmers, manufacturers, people who keep our country fed and moving. We need real leaders who will fight for our people, not leaders who would have government replace true hard work and the American spirit.”

Hasdorff worked in the White House Office of Public Liaison in the George H.W. Bush (R) Administration. There she worked with faith leaders across the country. She worked on Capitol Hill for six years where her most meaningful assignments focused on keeping the government and Washington, D.C. elites from discriminating against churches and faith-based organizations. Hasdorff worked on the Ten Commandments Defense Act, defending the right of states to display the Ten Commandments in courthouses and public places. She served as a senior advisor on the Charitable Choice language, which put the Faith-Based initiative into law and still protects faith based organizations from discrimination when accessing federal funding. Hasdorff has worked on pro-life, pro-family legislation. Terri also worked in the George W. Bush Administration as America’s faith-based representative to the world. Hasdorff graduated from Samford University.

Second Congressional District incumbent Martha Roby (R-Montgomery) is not running for another term.

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Education

Alabama voters will decide whether to fire the state school board

Jessa Reid Bolling

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The fate of the state school board will be decided by Alabama voters on March 3. 

A proposed constitutional amendment, Amendment One, asks if voters want to change how the folks in charge of education at the state level are selected. 

A yes vote would abolish the elected State Board of Education and the Board-appointed position of State Superintendent of Education. Instead, there will be a Governor-appointed Commission, the Alabama Commission on Elementary and Secondary Education. The Commission would appoint a Secretary of Elementary and Secondary Education, to replace the existing state Superintendent’s position.

A no vote would leave the current system in place, meaning school board members would still be elected by voters based on districts. 

The Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama (PARCA) conducted an analysis of the amendment, highlighting both strengths and weaknesses of the amendment. 

“Proponents say elected boards are more responsive to the public will. As elected officials, board members have their rightful place and, ideally, are only responsible to the people who elected them. They should be more empowered to oppose what they believe is not in the interests of the state’s schools and children.

At the same time, as elected officials, re-election is an important goal, if not the central goal. Thus elected board members may find themselves where the interests and desires of voters conflict with policies, programs and practices that best serve children. 

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Conversely, proponents of appointed boards cite the strength of the vetting process in creating boards with knowledgeable, skilled, effective board members. An appointment process allows the governor to consider the needs of the board and the qualities different candidates would bring. 

Others cite that governor-appointed boards and appointed superintendents create a more efficient, aligned, and harmonious system for setting and implementing education priorities. Ambitious and substantive changes to a state’s school system are more feasible in a more efficient system that encourages collaboration and strengthens the governor’s capacity to effect change. However, while somewhat insulated, appointed boards are not immune from political pressure.”

Earlier this month, Governor Kay Ivey addressed PARCA at the annual Albert Brewer Legacy lunch at the Harbert Center in Birmingham, asking the council to support Amendment One.

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“Alabama is at the bottom in about every education category that can be found,” Ivey said. “Too many of our third graders cannot read and too many of our high school graduates are not ready for a career or college.”

“Vote yes on amendment one when you go to the polls on March 3,” Ivey said. “We have had three superintendents in five years. We can do better.”

 

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