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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

Jones campaign director blasts Tuberville for saying $600 “too much” for out-of-work Alabamians

Eddie Burkhalter

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

The communications director for U.S. Sen. Doug Jones’s re-election campaign on Wednesday called out Tommy Tuberville for saying that $600 in emergency unemployment aid was too much for Alabamians. 

“Tommy Tuberville once again proves he’s out of touch with Alabama. When he ‘resigned’ from his job as a football coach he took a $5.1 million payout for himself. To this day, he receives $800 a week in State Retirement funds for a coaching job he ‘quit’ in 2008,” said Owen Kilmer, communications Director for Jones’s Senate campaign, in a statement Wednesday. 

“But he says $600 in emergency benefits is ‘way too much’ for people in Alabama who lost their jobs in this crisis through no fault of their own. Tuberville says $600 is ‘way too much’ to help people put food on the table and pay utilities,” Kilmer continued. “No wonder, when asked about how to handle this crisis, he said ‘I wouldn’t have a clue.’ It’s true. He doesn’t.”

Tuberville, the Republican Senate nominee, is trying to unseat Jones in the November general election. Jones has called the former Auburn football coach and first-time political candidate an unprepared hyper-partisan.

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Elections

Mimi Penhale, Russell Bedsole advance to GOP runoff in HD49

Brandon Moseley

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Miriam "Mimi" Penhale, left, and Russell Bedsole, right, are vying for the vacant Alabama House District 49 seat.

Republican voters in House District 49 went to the polls Tuesday to nominate their next representative. Miriam “Mimi” Penhale and Russell Bedsole received the most votes and will advance on to the special Republican primary runoff scheduled for Sept. 1.

“What an incredible day!” Bedsole said. “Thank you friends and family for your love, support, and prayers. We had a great showing today and we are on to a runoff. Looking forward to getting back out and winning this thing on September 1st.”

“THANK YOU Bibb, Chilton and Shelby County!” Penhale said on social media. “I’m looking forward to earning your vote, again, on September 1 in the runoff.”

The election was very tight between the two. Mimi Penhale received 829 votes, or 31.4 percent of the votes. Russell Bedsole received 919 votes, or 34.8 percent.

The rest of the votes was split among the other four candidates. James Dean received less than 1 percent, Chuck Martin received 24.3 percent, Jackson McNeely received 2.16 percent and Donna Strong received 6.71 percent.

There were 2,639 votes cast on Tuesday. Voter turnout was 8.88 percent.

Bedsole serves on the Alabaster City Council, Pemhale is the director of the Shelby County Legislative office.

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The eventual winner of the Republican nomination will face Democrat Cheryl Patton in the special general election on Tuesday, Nov. 17.

The vacancy in House District 49 was created when State Rep. April Weaver, R-Briarfield, announced her resignation to accept an appointment as a regional director of the Department of Health and Human Services.

House District 49 consists of portions of Bibb, Shelby and Chilton Counties. The winner will serve the remainder of Weaver’s term, which ends in late 2022.

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Jimmy Reynolds, Ben Robbins qualify as Republicans for Alabama House District 33

Brandon Moseley

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(STOCK PHOTO)

The Alabama Republican Party on Tuesday closed its candidate qualifying period for the Alabama House of Representatives District 33 special primary election scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 6.

Jimmy Reynolds Jr. and Ben Robbins have qualified to run for the District 33 seat in the special Republican primary.

“Our district is a wonderful place to raise a family,” Robbins said in a statement. “We owe it to our children and grandchildren to leave them with more opportunities than we had, and I believe fresh ideas, bold leadership and true conservative values are the foundation of that success.”

Robbins serves on multiple community boards, including Habitat for Humanity, as co-president of Leadership Sylacauga and serves the Talladega Rotary Club as a past-president. He is also active with several local Chambers of Commerce and the Sylacauga Young Professionals. He is a seventh-generation Talladega County resident and the grandson of former Childersburg Mayor Robert Limbaugh. He and his wife Melanie have one son.

Jimmy Reynolds Jr. is a visual arts teacher at Sylacauga City School System. He previously worked for HHGregg Inc. and Tweeter Home Entertainment. Reynolds has a business management degree from Auburn University and lives in Hollins.

The Republican Special Primary Election will be held on Oct. 6, 2020, with the General Election scheduled for Jan. 19, 2021.

The vacancy in House District 33 occurred following the sudden passing of State Rep. Ron Johnson, R-Sylacauga, in July.

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House District 33 consists of portions of Clay, Coosa and Talladega Counties.

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New poll: Tuberville has big lead over Jones in Senate race

Josh Moon

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

Team voting still rules in Alabama. According to a new Morning Consult poll of Alabama voters, Republican challenger Tommy Tuberville has a double-digit lead over incumbent Democratic Sen. Doug Jones, virtually mirroring the advantage President Donald Trump has over Democratic challenger Joe Biden in the state.

The poll of approximately 650 likely Alabama voters shows Tuberville leading 52-35, with a large number of purported “independent” voters still undecided. 

Trump’s lead in that same poll is 58-36. 

The big lead for Tuberville would be a bit of a surprise, given that most polling up to this point has shown Jones performing favorably against both an unnamed Republican challenger and Tuberville specifically. 

Many of the polls documented on the polling tracking website FiveThirtyEight through June and July had Jones trailing Tuberville consistently, but typically falling somewhere between 3 and 10 percentage points behind. Only a Cygnal poll in late June showed him trailing by 14 points — his largest deficit by far at the time. 

While the Morning Consult poll was mostly negative for Jones, the breakdown of responses and the difference between loyalties in the presidential race and the Senate race could prove worrisome for Tuberville’s camp. 

A much higher percentage of respondents in the Senate race identified as “independents,” and 23 percent of that group said they had yet to make up their mind. In fact, among Republicans, while Trump pulled 96 percent of those voters, Tuberville managed just 87 percent. 

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Among those independent voters, Tuberville held just a 7-point lead, 34-27. 

Overall, 9 percent of the respondents were undecided or didn’t plan to vote in the Senate race.

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