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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. 

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.

 

Josh Moon is an investigative reporter and featured columnist at the Alabama Political Reporter with years of political reporting experience in Alabama. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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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. 

Eddie Burkhalter

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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. 

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“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.

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GOP candidate Tommy Tuberville leads Trump “boat parade” in Orange Beach

Brandon Moseley

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Tommy Tuberville participates in a Trump "boat parade." (Contributed)

Senate candidate Tommy Tuberville rode in the lead boat in a “boat parade” on Sunday in Orange Beach, celebrating Independence Day and the launch of President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign.

Hundreds of boats participated in the Trump parade in the Perdido Pass area. WKRG TV estimates that more than 8,000 people joined. Orange Beach and Gulf Shores boats joined boats from Pensacola and Dauphin Island.

Trump supporter and Alabama Republican Executive Committee member Perry Hooper Jr. was also present.

“It was Awesome having Coach Tommy Tuberville on The TRUMP Boat at Orange Beach Alabama,” Hooper said. “Tommy was a Great Coach and he will be a Great US Senator. It’s Great To Be A TRUMP/ TUBERVILLE AMERICAN. Everybody was so Happy cheering for The President and Tommy on! Fun Day!”

Hooper is a former state representative from Montgomery.

Tuberville is a former Auburn University head football coach. The Arkansas native lives in Auburn.

President Donald Trump spoke at Mount Rushmore in South Dakota on Friday.

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“Today we pay tribute to the exceptional lives and extraordinary legacies of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Teddy Roosevelt,” Trump said. “I am here as your president to proclaim before the country and before the world, this monument will never be desecrated, these heroes will never be defamed, their legacy will never ever be destroyed, their achievements will never be forgotten, and Mount Rushmore will stand forever as an eternal tribute to our forefathers and to our freedom.”

Trump accused opponents of trying to dismantle America.

“Make no mistake. This left-wing cultural revolution is designed to overthrow the American Revolution,” Trump alleged. “In so doing they would destroy the very civilization that rescued billions from poverty, disease, violence, and hunger, and that lifted humanity to new heights of achievement, discovery, and progress. To make this possible, they are determined to tear down every statue, symbol, and memory of our national heritage.”

“President Trump has given several good Speeches,” Hooper said. “This Speech was by far his best! It was straight up AWESOME! His speech was all about the Greatness of America! President Trump loves our Country and its great History. President Reagan has given some of the best speeches ever. This speech topped Reagan’s best. As for Perry O. Hooper Jr., I would get in a foxhole and fight for him to the end. God Bless President Donald J. Trump and GOD BLESS THE USA!”

Trump faces a stiff challenge from former Vice President Joe Biden, who is leading in the polling.

Tuberville has been endorsed by Trump in the July 14 Republican primary runoff for U.S. Senate. Tuberville faces former Sen. Jeff Sessions.

 

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State Sen. Jim McClendon accuses Tuberville of hiding from a debate

Brandon Moseley

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Tommy Tuberville speaks at a campaign event. (via Tuberville campaign)

State Sen. Jim McClendon, R-Springville, on Monday accused coach Tommy Tuberville of avoiding his GOP Senate primary opponent, former Sen. Jeff Sessions.

“Coach TUBBERVILLE is hiding from a face to face debate,” McClendon said on social media.

McClendon compared Tuberville’s strategy to that of Democratic presidential nominee former Vice President Joe Biden.

“Joe BIDEN is hiding from the public in his basement,” McClendon said. “Same game plan for both of these guys. WHY? They are AFRAID (and UNABLE?) to answer pertinent questions. I will not vote for either of them. We MUST have leaders that understand the issues.”

Biden is the presumed Democratic presidential nominee. He will face President Donald Trump in the Nov. 3 general election.

McClendon told APR that Tuberville, “Does not know the issue. He doesn’t have a clue. He just wants to be a U.S. Senator.”

Sessions has challenged Tuberville to debates.

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“Anyone who represents our state needs to demonstrate that they know Alabama and each of its 67 unique counties,” Sessions said in May. “You can’t represent Alabama’s interests unless you prove that you understand Alabama and the challenges we face. Given your TV ads boasting about how strong you are (while standing in a gym where other people are exercising), I’m sure you can find it within yourself to demonstrate that strength in a series of debates so that the people of Alabama can see for themselves.”

“Being a United States Senator is more than just casting the occasional vote,” Sessions stated. “Effective senators must be ready to debate Chuck Schumer, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and others on many issues and away from the safety of talking points scripted by Facebook’s chief open-borders lobbyist, who you’ve hired to help lead your Senate campaign.”

“And anyone representing Alabama needs to be fully vetted before they are trusted to represent Alabama Republicans in a race against Doug Jones,” Sessions continued. “I’ve been fully vetted, over and over again. The national Democratic Party tried to find “dirt” on me when I helped President Trump win the 2016 election, and again when he nominated me for Attorney General. They came up empty, because there’s nothing there.”

Tuberville is a former Auburn University head football coach. He was also the coach at the University of Mississippi, Texas Tech University and Cincinnati University, and the defensive coordinator at the University of Miami and at Texas A&M University.

Polls have shown Tuberville with a lead over Sessions.

Sessions and Tuberville are running against each other in the Republican primary runoff on July 14. The winner of the Republican nomination will face incumbent Democratic Sen. Doug Jones in the Nov. 3 general election. Sessions was Senator from 1997 to 2017, when he was confirmed as U.S. attorney general.

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Andalusia Mayor Earl Johnson endorses Jeff Coleman for Congress

Brandon Moseley

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Jeff Coleman speaks at an event. (via Jeff Coleman campaign)

Andalusia Mayor Earl Johnson endorsed 2nd Congressional District Republican candidate Jeff Coleman Thursday.

“Jeff Coleman is a leader. We need a strong leader in Washington to fight back against these DC bureaucrats who represent themselves instead of the people,” Johnson said. “I know that Jeff Coleman will be that leader, and he will be the mover and shaker to get things done!”

“Mayor Johnson’s confidence in my ability to bring strong jobs, stand up for our values, and fight for our district is very humbling,” Coleman said. “His leadership in Andalusia has been incredible and It shows in their growth!”

Johnson now joins mayors from Luverne, Dothan, Geneva, Florala and Tallassee in endorsing Coleman for Congress.

Coleman and his opponent, former State Rep. Barry Moore, R-Enterprise, are running in the Republican primary runoff on July 14. The two are scheduled to be in a debate Tuesday on WTVY Channel 4 in Dothan at 6 p.m.

Coleman is a native of Dothan. He is the fifth generation of his family to head the family business, Coleman Worldwide Moving, based in Dothan. He recently stepped down as president and CEO in order to run for Congress. Coleman is a former chairman of the Business Council of Alabama and one of the wealthiest people in Alabama.

Coleman has been endorsed by BCA and the Alabama Farmers Federation, as well as the Alabama Realtors Association, Alabama Home Builders Association, Alabama Retail Association, Alabama Trucking Association, Dothan Area Chamber of Commerce and the United States Chamber of Commerce.

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Coleman is a graduate from Northview High School where he was a member of the 1981 Football team that won the Alabama High School Football State Championship. He has a bachelor’s degree in Commerce and Business Administration from the University of Alabama and a Master’s in Business Administration from Troy University in Dothan. He is an Eagle Scout, a 2011 Graduate of Leadership Alabama and a 2015 Graduate of the Air War College National Security Forum. Jeff served two terms as the Civilian Aide to the Secretary of the Army for Alabama.

Coleman describes himself as a conservative outsider and businessman, like Donald Trump, who cares more about doing what’s right for the country than winning an election.

The eventual Republican nominee for the open 2nd Congressional District seat will face Democrat Phyllis Harvey-Hall in the November general election.

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