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Opinion | Here’s what you need to know about Alabama’s so-called “inactive” voter list

Randall Marshall

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Are you a registered Alabama voter preparing to vote on Tuesday? If so, don’t be alarmed if you arrive at your polling place and a poll worker tells you are on the “inactive list” or are an “inactive voter.”

In the 2017 Special Election, even Congressman and then Senate primary candidate Mo Brooks found himself listed as inactive when he arrived to vote in his own election. While being listed as inactive isn’t a major problem, it is important you understand what this designation means and that you know your rights.

If you are listed as “inactive,” you are still entitled to vote a regular ballot on Tuesday so long as you are at the correct polling place and fill out a short reidentification form. Alabama Code § 17-4-9 explains that an inactive voter “shall be permitted to vote provided the voter completes a voter reidentification form.”

Provisional ballots are intended for other circumstances—not for voters listed as “inactive.” If your name does not appear on the poll book at all, you don’t have the required identification, you requested an absentee ballot that didn’t arrive, your vote is challenged, or you are voting during extended hours, you must be offered a provisional ballot. You may then have to take further action to make sure your ballot is actually counted.

What the State calls “the inactive list” is not actually a list of inactive voters, but more of an “update” list. You probably ended up on this list not for a lack of participation but because you were flagged as potentially having moved due to returned mail. But there is generally no consequence for being on the inactive list other than having to fill out a voter reidentification form before voting a regular ballot at the polls. Voting a regular ballot is key, because your vote will be counted without any follow up on your part.

Additionally, being listed as “inactive” does not necessarily mean you aren’t a regular voter, that you haven’t voted recently, or that you are set to be “purged” from the Alabama voter rolls. Purges are events that happen in Alabama every four years. The last one was in 2017 and Alabama won’t have its next one until 2021. If you are listed as inactive, you may or may not be in the group of people who are on a potential purge list due to having a mailer from the Secretary of State’s office returned to your Board of Registrars as undeliverable and not responding to a confirmation/update card within 90 days. Most importantly, even if you are on a potential purge list for 2021, voting a regular ballot on Tuesday will remove you from that list. Filling out the reidentification form at the polls will change your status back to “active.”

Although confusion abounds over the inactive designation, there’s nothing to fear about the designation, other than maybe the confusion it generates. To help prepare yourself, you can do the following:

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Check out your voter registration status at here. 

If you have been designated “inactive,” go to your polling location, fill out a voter reidentification form, and vote a regular ballot.

The persistent problem of confusion should not be taken lightly. Reports from 2017 indicate that some Alabamians listed as inactive ended up casting provisional ballots because some poll workers misunderstood the meaning of the inactive designation.

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That’s why it’s critical that you know your rights as an Alabama voter, including if you have been designated as “inactive.”

If you have trouble voting a regular ballot on Election Day, call the Secretary of State’s office at 1-800-274-8683. You can also call the non-governmental election protection hotline at 1-866-OUR-VOTE.

The author thanks attorneys at Demos and the ACLU Voting Rights Project for research helping to clarify proper practices with respect to Alabama’s “inactive” voter list.

Randall Marshall is the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama.

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Elections

Coalition of attorneys general file opposition to Alabama attempt to ban curbside voting

The AGs argue that Alabama’s suggestion to the courts that curbside voting invites fraud is “unfounded.” 

Eddie Burkhalter

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(STOCK PHOTO)

A coalition of 17 state attorneys general have filed an opposition to Alabama’s attempt to get the U.S. Supreme Court to ban curbside voting. 

In a friend-of-the-court brief, led by District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine, the attorneys general argue to that curbside voting is safer for those at greatest risk from COVID-19, and that a ban on the practice would disproportionately impact the elderly, the disabled and Black Alabamians.

They also argue that Alabama’s suggestion to the courts that curbside voting invites fraud is “unfounded.” 

“The Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, established by President Trump following the 2016 election, ‘uncovered no evidence to support claims of widespread voter fraud,’” the brief states, adding that there is no evidence that curbside voting in the many states that allow it invites fraud. 

“The practice is longstanding and widespread—as noted, more than half of states have historically offered curbside voting in some form,” the brief continues. 

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall on Oct. 13 said the state will appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court a federal appeals court ruling allowing curbside voting in the Nov. 3 election. 

A panel of federal appeals court judges on Oct. 13 reversed parts of U.S. District Judge Abdul Kallon’s Sept. 30 ordered ruling regarding absentee voting in the upcoming Nov. 3 elections, but the judges let the previous ruling allowing curbside voting to stand. 

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The lawsuit, filed by the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Southern Poverty Law Center, American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of Alabama and Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program, was brought on behalf of several Alabamians with underlying medical conditions. 

“Curbside voting is a longstanding, secure voting option that local jurisdictions have made available to protect the health of vulnerable voters, including elderly, disabled, and voters with underlying health issues,” Racine said in a statement. “Curbside voting minimizes the risk to persons who are particularly susceptible to COVID-19, and local jurisdictions should be able to offer this common-sense accommodation to voters. State Attorneys General will keep fighting to ensure that voters can safely make their voices heard at the ballot box this November.”

The brief filed by the coalition of state attorneys general comes as the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations across Alabama has been ticking upward.

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Racine is joined in the brief by attorneys general from California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Washington.

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Elections

Tuberville, Sessions campaign together

The two former Republican primary opponents participated in a series of campaign events across the Tennessee Valley area.

Brandon Moseley

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Former Sen. Jeff Sessions, left, and Senate candidate Tommy Tuberville, right.

The Tommy Tuberville for U.S. Senate campaign released a social media video Thursday featuring Tuberville alongside former U.S. Sen. and Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The two former Republican primary opponents had participated in a series of campaign events across the Tennessee Valley area.

Tuberville and Sessions on Wednesday met with representatives of Huntsville’s defense and technology sectors, participated in an event sponsored by the Republican Women of Huntsville and headlined multiple campaign fundraising events.

Sessions said, “Tommy, I support you 100 percent. Alabama must send you to represent us in the Senate. We cannot allow a Chuck Schumer acolyte – Doug Jones – to represent Alabama in the Senate.”

“You see it on his vote on the judges and Kavanaugh and the way he’s behaved about the new nominee, so I think … it would be shocking that Alabama would reelect a Doug Jones,” Sessions continued. “I know you’re going to win. I feel really good about it, and I’m glad that you’re traveling the state hard and that you’re here in this important community.”

The night after Tuberville won the Republican primary runoff election, Sessions committed to doing his part to help defeat Jones and reclaim the Senate seat for the ALGOP.

“After we won the runoff, Jeff Sessions called and told me, ‘Coach, I’m all in,’ and today’s joint events certainly demonstrate that he is a man of his word,” Tuberville said following the video shoot. “Jeff Sessions understands that it’s time we once again had a U.S. senator whose votes reflect our conservative Alabama values, not the ultra-liberal Hollywood and New York values of Doug Jones’s high-dollar, out-of-state campaign donors.”

Tuberville faces a determined Jones, who is flooding the airwaves with ads. Democrats are desperate to hold on to Jones’ seat, believing that his seat could tip control of the Senate to the Democrats.

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Democrats hope to hold onto their control the U.S. House of Representatives and a recent poll by Rasmussen shows Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden with a five point lead over incumbent Donald Trump.

Sessions left the U.S. Senate to accept an appointment as Trump’s first attorney general.

Jones defeated former Chief Justice Roy Moore to win the seat in the special election.

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Sessions was fired by Trump in 2018 and announced his candidacy for Senate the day before qualifying ended. Tuberville had already spent ten months on the campaign trail at that point.

Tuberville defeated Sessions, Moore, Congressman Bradley Byrne, State Rep. Arnold Mooney and businessman Stanley Adair in the crowded Republican primary. Tuberville is a former Auburn University head football coach. He also coached Texas Tech, Cincinnati and Ole Miss. Tuberville won a national championship as the defensive coordinator at the University of Miami. Tuberville lives in Auburn.

The general election is Nov. 3.

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Education

Report: Alabama is fourth-least politically engaged state in 2020

The study scored states based on 11 key indicators of political engagement. Those included things like voter turnout, political donations and voter accessibility policies.

Micah Danney

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(STOCK PHOTO)

Alabama was ranked fourth from last in political engagement in the country in 2020 in an analysis done by the personal finance website WalletHub.

The study scored states based on 11 key indicators of political engagement. Those included things like voter turnout, political donations and voter accessibility policies.

A record 137.5 million Americans voted in the 2016 presidential election, but that only accounts for 61.4 percent of citizens who are old enough to vote. The U.S. ranks 26 in voter turnout among the world’s 35 developed nations. 

“That’s no surprise, considering most states don’t emphasize civic education in their schools,” the report points out. “Large proportions of the public fail even simple knowledge tests such as knowing whether one’s state requires identification in order to vote.”

One of the study’s metrics where Alabama scored lowest was the percentage of the electorate that voted in the 2016 election, which was 57.4 percent. That number is low, said Jill Gonzalez, a WalletHub analyst, and is 4.5 percent lower than it was in the 2012 presidential election.

She said that other factors responsible for the state’s low rank were its preparedness for voting in a pandemic and the low percentage of residents who participate in local groups or organizations.

The report’s assessment of the state’s preparedness for voting in a pandemic included voting accessibility metrics.

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“Alabama actually received a negative score here because of the unnecessary obstacles created for voter access, such as: voters need a notary or two witnesses to complete an absentee ballot, voters are required to provide a copy of a photo ID for the mail application and/or ballot, and mail ballots are due before close of polling,” Gonzalez said in an email.

She said that states ranked at the top of the list, like first-place Maine, have higher engagement due to measures taken by state legislatures. 

“Making it easy for people to vote increases engagement,” Gonzalez said. “This can be done through things like automatic voter registration, early voting, or voting by mail. The existence of local civic organizations involved in voter mobilization also plays a part in this.”

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A federal judge ordered Alabama on Sept. 30 to do away with its witnesses or notary requirement for mail-in ballots, and to allow curbside voting for the Nov. 3 election. An appeals court reversed the former ruling on Tuesday, a decision which Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill applauded. It upheld the latter decision, about which Merrill said, “we intend to appeal to the Supreme Court to see that this fraudulent practice is banned in Alabama, as it is not currently allowed by state law.”

Metrics where Alabama ranked below average, with a score of one being best and 25 being average, were as follows:

  • 26th in percentage of registered voters in the 2016 presidential election
  • 35th in voter accessibility policies
  • 37th in percentage of the electorate who voted in the 2018 midterm elections
  • 38th in total political contributions per adult population
  • 42nd in percentage of the electorate who voted in the 2016 presidential election
  • 45th is the change in the percentage of the electorate who actually voted in the 2016 elections versus the 2012 elections

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Elections

Alabama Retail Association endorses Mike Rogers

“Proud to receive the endorsement of the Alabama Retail Association’s PAC!” Rogers said.

Brandon Moseley

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Congressman Mike Rogers

Congressman Mike Rogers, R-Alabama, this week thanked the Alabama Retail Association for their recent endorsement. Rogers is seeking his tenth term representing the 3rd Congressional District.

“Proud to receive the endorsement of the Alabama Retail Association’s PAC!” Rogers said. “Through sales of food, clothing, furniture, medicine and more, the retailers’ 4,300 independent merchant and national company members touch almost every aspect of daily living.”

Rogers was first elected in 2002 after previous service in the Alabama House of Representatives and the Calhoun County Commission. He currently serves as ranking member of the Committee on Homeland Security and is a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee. Mike also serves as a member of the Strategic Forces subcommittee.

Rogers summarizes his conservative ideology with the old adage “the government that governs best, governs least.”

Rogers is a graduate of Saks High School and earned both his undergraduate degree in political science and masters of public administration at Jacksonville State University. He was a practicing attorney and is a small business owner in Calhoun County.

Rogers faces Democratic nominee Adia Winfrey in the Nov. 3 general election.

The Alabama Retail Association represents retailers, the largest private employer in the state of Alabama, before the Alabama Legislature and the U.S. Congress. Through sales of food, clothing, furniture, medicine and more, the association’s 4,300 independent merchant and national company members touch almost every aspect of daily living.

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Rogers is a sixth generation East Alabamian and native of Calhoun County. He has been married to his wife, Beth, for 35 years. They have three children. Mike grew up in the small mill village of Blue Mountain. His mother worked in the local textile mill and his father was a firefighter.

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