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Opinion | No! To Ivey and the gang

Joey Kennedy

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Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey lost in a landslide on Super Tuesday. So did Alabama Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh. And most members of the Alabama House and Senate.

You say they weren’t on Tuesday’s ballot? Well, yes, they were. They were the big sponsors of Amendment One, the proposed constitutional amendment that would have taken away Alabama voters’ right to elect the state school board.

The vote wasn’t even close. Amendment One didn’t just lose. It lost so badly that you have to wonder what Ivey, Marsh, and lawmakers were thinking. The amendment failed by more than 555,000 votes: 830,436 No (75.22 percent) to 273,592 (24.78 percent).

Allowing the governor to appoint the state school board was mainly a power grab. Ivey claimed she wanted the power to help improve education in Alabama.

Don’t they always?

More likely, Ivey was angling for the chance to make a few more political appointments for some of her cronies.

I’m not defending the state school board. It has some serious issues. But I am defending Alabama voters’ right to elect their school board members so that the board can remain independent.

You know an idea is really bad when both the chairman of the Alabama Democratic Party and the executive director of the conservative, paranoid Eagle Forum are on the same side opposing it.

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House Ways and Means Chair Bill Poole, R-Tuscaloosa, who supported the amendment, said: “Let’s take the Rs and Ds and primaries and general elections out of it, and let’s just put qualified persons on the board and let them make good, sound decisions.”

Yeah, that always happens with “appointed” boards, right? If you believe that, take a look at some of the whacky decisionmade in the past by the Alabama State Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners. Like the state school board would have been had Amendment One passed, the members of the state Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners are appointed by the governor.

Poole is wrong that appointing a school board removes the politics. It just shifts the politics from the voters to the governor.I think Democratic Party Chair Christopher England has it right: “As a state, Alabama ranks last or close to last in just about everything. Some might try and convince you that this is an effort to move public education forward, but greedy power grabs rarely lead to sustainable progress. Our state’s education system should not be used as a political football. Amendment One is another attempt to dismantle democracy, trading the will of the people for the wishes of one person.”

Ivey has used her popularity to do a lot of things, including raising the state’s gasoline tax, but voters drew a hard line in the sand on giving up their elected school board.

Yeah, many Alabama schools are crappy, but that’s not only the school board’s fault. We underfund many of our schools; where is Ivey’s proposal for a tax to help improve teacher pay?

And if Ivey and the Republican-controlled Legislature are eager to end elections for something, how about ending partisan elections for judges? We could do what some other states are doing: Finding truly qualified lawyers and appointing them to the courts where after six or eight years, they stand in a retention election. A judicial commission could be set up to screen the judicial applicants, and then it would send the names of three qualified attorneys to the governor for selection.

Politics truly has no place in the judiciary; judges are supposed to rule on the law, not filter their decisions through party affiliations.

But a school board? How the schools are run is, in the end, a question for all of us, not just the governor. On Amendment One, voters sent Ivey a really loud “No! No! 830,000 times No!”

Joey Kennedy, a Pulitzer Prize winner, writes a column each week for Alabama Political Reporter. Email: [email protected]

 

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Elections

League of Women Voters of Alabama sue over voting amid COVID-19 pandemic

Eddie Burkhalter

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The League of Women Voters of Alabama on Thursday filed a lawsuit against Gov. Kay Ivey, Secretary of State John Merrill and several Montgomery County election officials asking the court to expand Alabama’s absentee voting and relax other voting measures amid the COVID-19 outbreak. 

The nonprofit is joined in the suit by 10 plaintiffs who range in age from 60 to 75, many of whom have medical conditions that put them at greater risk for serious complications or death from COVID-19. 

“Voting is a right, not a privilege, and elections must be safe, accessible, and fairly administered,” the League of Women Voters of Alabama said in a press release Thursday. “Alabama’s Constitution specifically requires that the right to vote be protected in times of ‘tumult,’ clearly including the current pandemic.” 

Currently, to vote absentee in Alabama, a person must send a copy of their photo ID and have their ballot signed by a notary or two adults. The lawsuit asks the court to require state officials to use emergency powers to waive the notary or witness requirement, the requirement to supply a copy of a photo ID and to extend no-excuse absentee voting into the fall. 

Among the plaintiffs is Ardis Albany, 73, of Jefferson County who has an artificial aortic valve, according to the lawsuit. 

“Because she fears exposing herself to COVID-19 infection, Ms. Albany has already applied for an absentee ballot for the November 3, 2020, general election,” the complaint states. “Her application checked the box for being out of county on election day, and she is prepared to leave Jefferson County on election day if necessary to vote an absentee ballot.” 

Another plaintiff, 63-year-old Lucinda Livingston of Montgomery County suffers from heart and lung problems and has been sequestered at home since March 17, where she lives with her grandson, who’s under the age of five, according to the complaint. 

“She fears acquiring COVID-19, given her physiological pre-morbidity, and she fears spreading the virus to her grandson at home,” the complaint states. “She has never voted an absentee ballot, but she wishes to do so in the elections held in 2020. She does not have a scanner in her home, cannot make a copy of her photo ID, and has no way safely to get her absentee ballot notarized or signed by two witnesses.” 

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In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, Gov. Ivey pushed the Republican runoff election back until July 14. Although Merrill has allowed those who may be concerned about voting in person in the runoff to vote absentee by checking a box on the ballot that reads “I have a physical illness or infirmity which prevents my attendance at the polls.”

Merril has not extended that offer for voters in the municipal and presidential elections in November, however. 

Meanwhile, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Alabama continue to rise, while testing for the virus has remained relatively flat in recent weeks. 

“We’re extraordinarily concerned about the numbers that we have been seeing,” said Alabama State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris, speaking during a press briefing Thursday. 

Harris said the department continues to see community spread of the virus and have identified several hotspots. He’s concerned that the public isn’t taking the virus seriously or following recommendations to wear masks in public and maintain social distancing, he said Thursday. 

“One hundred years ago the nonpartisan League of Women Voters was founded to protect and preserve the right to vote and the integrity of the electoral process,” said Barbara Caddell, President of the League of Women Voters of Alabama, in a statement. “The unexpected risks posed by the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 (COVID19) challenge our election system to the utmost.  Today, we ask that Alabama’s courts use Alabama’s laws to make it safe and possible for all citizens to vote.”

The League of Woman Voters of Alabama’s lawsuit is similar to a suit by the Southern Poverty Law Center, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program which asks the court to require state officials to implement curbside voting for at-risk citizens during the coronavirus pandemic and to remove requirements for certain voter IDs and witnesses requirements.

The U.S. Department of Justice on Tuesday filed a brief in that suit that states the department doesn’t believe Alabama’s law that requires witnesses for absentee ballots violates the Voting Rights Act.

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National Right to Life Committee endorses Aderholt

Brandon Moseley

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Wednesday, the campaign to re-elect Congressman Robert Aderholt, (R Haleyville) announced that the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) has endorsed him for re-election to Alabama’s Fourth Congressional District.

“I am truly humbled to have the endorsement of the National Right to Life Committee,” said Congressman Aderholt. “I have, and I always will, fight for those who are the most vulnerable among us. I cannot think of anyone more vulnerable than the unborn. The National Right to Life Committee is committed to this fight, and it is an honor to fight along side them. As I have said before, no argument on the Pro-Choice side can get around one fundamental fact, abortion stops a human heartbeat.”

The NRLC Committee commended Aderholt in its endorsement:

“National Right to Life is pleased to endorse you for re-election to the U.S. House of Representatives,” the Committee wrote. “We strongly commend you for maintaining a perfect 100% pro-life voting record throughout the 116th Congress.”

“You voted in support of the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act,” the endorsement letter continued. “This legislation would require that a baby born alive during an abortion must be afforded the same degree of care that would apply to any other child at the same gestational age. You support the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. This Act would protect unborn children at 20 weeks, a point by which the unborn child is capable of experiencing great pain when being killed by dismemberment or other late abortion methods. You oppose using tax dollars to pay for abortion, and you oppose taxpayer funding of abortion providers.”

“You are a strong advocate for life,” the Committee said of Rep. Aderholt. “This endorsement reflects your commitment to strengthening a culture of life throughout our nation and in the U.S. House. We look forward to continuing our important work with you to protect the most vulnerable members of the human family – unborn children, the medically dependent, and persons with disabilities, whose lives are threatened by abortion or euthanasia.”

“All voters who are concerned with the right to life and with the protection of the most vulnerable members of the human family should vote to return you to the U.S. House, so that you can continue to work to advance vital pro-life public policies,” the endorsement letter concludes.

Robert B. Aderholt is a member of the powerful House Committee on Appropriations, which has jurisdiction over funding the operation of the federal government. He serves as Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice and Science. Aderholt also serves as a member of the Agriculture and Rural Development Subcommittee and the Defense Subcommittee. Aderholt is an advocate of fiscal responsibility, truth in budgeting and a federal government that operates within its means.

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Aderholt also serves as a commission member of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (commonly known as the Helsinki Commission). The Helsinki Commission is comprised of 56 countries around the world that together monitors human rights in Europe and Central Asia.

Aderholt believes the federal government serves a critical role in assisting state and local projects regarding economic development. He support pro-growth initiatives that create jobs, strong immigration standards, and robust national security.

Prior to his election to Congress, Aderholt served as Assistant Legal Advisor to Governor Fob James (R) as well as Municipal Judge for the city of Haleyville, Alabama. Aderholt has a bachelor’s degree from Birmingham Southern College and a law degree from the Cumberland School of Law at Samford University. He was born on July 22, 1965, and raised in Alabama, Aderholt and his wife, Caroline, have two children.

Congressman Robert Aderholt is seeking his thirteenth term representing Alabama’s Fourth Congressional District.

Aderholt faces a general election challenge from Democratic nominee Rick Neighbors.

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Phyllis Schlafly Eagles’ President Ed Martin endorses Bill Hightower for Congress

Brandon Moseley

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Wednesday, Bill Hightower’s campaign for Congress announced that Phyllis Schlafly Eagles’ President Ed Martin is endorsing Hightower.

In addition to serving as President of Phyllis Schlafly Eagles, Ed Martin also co-authored Phyllis Schlafly’s last book: ‘The Conservative Case for Trump.’ Martin succeeded Schlafly after her death late in 2016. She was 92.

“In the tradition of the late Phyllis Schlafly, I am pleased to endorse Bill Hightower for Congress in Alabama’s First Congressional District” said Ed Martin. “We endorse candidates who support President Trump and his Pro America agenda. Those candidates must be pro-life, pro-family, and pro-Constitution. Bill Hightower is a strong conservative with a proven track record of supporting these fundamental American values.”

“I am thrilled to receive Ed’s endorsement,” Hightower said. “Phyllis and her Eagles were foundational leaders of the pro-family, conservative movement and ensuring traditional values were engaged in the political process. Those are the same values I support, those are the same values that made me one of Alabama’s most conservative state senators during my time in Montgomery, and those are the same values I will take with me to represent south Alabama in Washington.”

Schlafly was the founder and longtime President of Eagle Forum. Ed Martin was President of Eagle Forum, but was forced out by the Board led by Schlafly’s daughter who were backing Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, for President. Schlafly and her sons endorsed Trump and created the break-away Eagles group in response.

Martin’s endorsement is the latest conservative leader to endorse Hightower’s campaign for Congress. Hightower has been endorsed by the nation’s oldest and largest pro-life organization, National Right to Life; as well as former Senator Rick Santorum, R-Pennsylvania, and Sen. Cruz.

Hightower was ranked as one of the most conservative State Senators in Alabama when he was in the legislature. There he advocated for smaller government, lower taxes, term limits, and a flat state income tax. Hightower was a candidate for Governor in 2018; but was defeated by Gov. Kay Ivey in the Republican primary.

As a boy, Hightower worked on his grandparent’s farm, cleaned swimming pools, and as a laborer on construction projects. He has a bachelor’s degree from the University of South Alabama and a Master’s in Business Administration from Vanderbilt University.

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In business, Bill has worked with Fortune 500 and other corporations including Emerson Electric, AlliedSignal, Eaton, and Balfour-Beatty. In 2002, he moved back to Mobile, to be closer to family. He now runs several small businesses.

Bill Hightower is married to Susan Binegar Hightower. They have three children and three grandchildren.

Hightower faces Mobile County Commissioner Jerry Carl in the Republican primary runoff on July 14.

The winner of the GOP runoff will face the winner of the Democratic Party runoff where James Averhart is running against Kiani Gardner. The general election will be November 3.

Incumbent Congressman Bradley Byrne, R-Montrose, is not seeking re-election.

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DOJ defends Alabama absentee voting law

Josh Moon

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The U.S. Department of Justice isn’t using its vast powers to ensure the country’s most vulnerable people can exercise their right to vote, but is instead focusing its efforts on defending laws that clearly violate the spirit of the Voting Rights Act, an attorney for the Southern Poverty Law Center said Tuesday. 

The comments, from SPLC senior staff attorney Caren Short, came in response to a DOJ filing in a federal lawsuit filed on behalf of several plaintiffs by SPLC, The NAACP Legal Defense Fund and Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program. That lawsuit seeks to implement curbside voting for at-risk citizens during the current pandemic and also to remove requirements for certain voter IDs and that witnesses sign absentee ballot requests. 

The DOJ filed a brief on Tuesday stating that it is the agency’s position that Alabama’s law requiring witnesses for absentee ballots does not violate Section 201 of the Voting Rights Act, because it is not a test or device as referenced in the Act. 

“It is not a literacy test, it is not an educational requirement, and it is not a moral character requirement,” Jay Town, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama, said in the brief. “Nor, contrary to Plaintiffs’ position, is it a voucher requirement prohibited by Section 201’s fourth and final provision.”

Plaintiffs in the case have argued that the requirement for a single person with a pre-existing condition could pose a grave risk and reasonably lead to them being unable to safely cast a vote. In fact, they point out in the lawsuit instances in which the DOJ, prior to the Trump administration, also had argued against states requiring witnesses. 

“Our complaint demonstrates how Alabama’s witness requirement violates Section 201 of the Voting Rights Act,” said Deuel Ross, senior counsel for the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund. “In the past, the DOJ itself has objected to witness requirements, but since February 2017, it has brought zero new voting rights cases.”

The “voucher” requirement was one of many tactics utilized by whites to prevent black citizens from voting. In practice, it required that any black person wishing to vote must first obtain the signature of a white person. 

Towns argued in the brief that there were differences between voucher requirements and the witness signatures, including that the witness doesn’t have to be a registered voter and the witness is merely signing that he or she witnessed the absentee voter filling out the ballot.

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