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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.

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“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.

Eddie Burkhalter is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can email him at [email protected] or reach him via Twitter.

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Elections

Alabama GOP chair says Harris “drags the Democrats’ ticket even further to the left”

Brandon Moseley

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U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris speaking with attendees at the 2019 National Forum on Wages and Working People. (VIA GAGE SKIDMORE/FLIKR)

Tuesday, Alabama Republican Party Chairman Terry Lathan released a statement critical of presumed Democratic presidential nominee former Vice President Joe Biden’s choice of U.S. Senator Kamala Harris (D-California) as his running mate in the November 3 general election. Biden announced the pick to supporters via text message.

“Joe Biden’s VP pick drags the Democrats’ ticket even further to the left,” Lathan charged. “Kamala Harris was the first proud co-sponsor Bernie’s Medicare for All government healthcare takeover. She’s applauded efforts to defund the police and even led the charge to block meaningful police reform in the Senate. She even wants to use the federal government to ban plastic straws and to control what we eat – a move that would devastate the U.S. dairy and beef industries – all in the name of ‘climate change’.”

“We look forward to the clear contrast in policies in the Vice Presidential debate with Mike Pence and Senator Harris,” Lathan concluded. “It will be a true mirror of the obtuse plans the Democrats want for our nation. This ticket does not represent the values of the American people. They will see through all bogus attempts by the Democrats who will pretend to move to the center. They will fail, as their policies have, and America will vote to re-elect President Trump on November 3rd.”

Republican National Committee Chair Ronna Romney McDaniel similarly blasted the decision.

“A hiding, diminished, & incoherent Biden didn’t just select a VP candidate, he chose the person who will actually be in charge if he were somehow able to win,” Chair McDaniel said. “Harris’ radical policies may be popular among liberals, but they are well outside the mainstream for most Americans.”

“Kamala Harris’ extreme positions, from raising taxes to abolishing private health insurance to comparing law enforcement officials to the KKK, show that the left-wing mob is controlling Joe Biden’s candidacy, just like they would control him as president,” McDaniel concluded.

Harris is a U.S. Senator, former 2020 presidential candidate, and former California Attorney General. Her father is an immigrant from Jamaica and her mother is an immigrant from India. She identifies as Black and is the first non-White woman to be on a major party presidential ticket. Harris is the fourth woman to appear on a major party presidential ticket. The previous nominees: 1984 Democratic VP candidate Geraldine Ferraro, 2008 Republican VP candidate Sara Palin, 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton all lost in the general election.

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Current Vice President Mike Pence is expected to return as President Trump’s running mate.

Biden is expected to make a joint appearance with Harris on Wednesday in Delaware.

Polls taken prior to the Harris pick show Biden with a significant lead in polling, both nationally and in several key swing states. Alabama is expected to support Trump by a large margin.

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Elections

Barry Moore: Trump “is doing what he can to counteract the Democrats stonewalling”

Brandon Moseley

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Congressional candidate Barry Moore.

Monday, congressional candidate former State Rep. Barry Moore, R-Enterprise, said that the President is doing what he can to counteract the Democrats stonewalling.” Moore is referring to President Donald J. Trump’s (R) recent executive orders extending unemployment payments, student loan relief, protection from eviction and a payroll tax exemption for persons making less than $100,000 a year.

“I’m glad that this President is once again showing his leadership during this crisis,” Rep. Moore said in a statement. “These executive orders show that he’s doing what he can to counteract the Democrat’s stonewalling. The American people need more relief from the effects of the ongoing pandemic, and it’s obvious that Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer and the rest of the Democrats in Congress care more about playing political games and funneling taxpayer money to their cronies than helping the people.”

“The Democrats keep insisting on extending the full $600 per week unemployment benefit despite the Congressional Budget Office saying it will only hurt the economy starting early next year,” Moore continued. “They also keep adding more and more of their progressive wish-list to the deal. Last week it came out that they’re insisting on solar, wind, and other green energy tax credits in the relief bill. What does that have to do with the COVID pandemic? Nothing, except to satisfy their liberal supporters and their anti-American agenda.”

The President signed four executive orders on Saturday granting a $400/week extension in unemployment benefits as well as extending the initial 120-day protections from eviction for renters and homeowners that were initially part of the CARES Act passed in April. Additional orders set student loan interest rates to zero and suspended federal student loan payments through December 31, 2020, and defers payroll taxes for employees making less than $100K a year from September 1 through December 31 of this year.

“I am so thankful that President Donald Trump is standing firm against Pelosi’s and Schumer’s attempt to hold the American people hostage, and I look forward to joining the next Congress to help him resist the Democrat’s agenda,” Moore concluded.

Barry Moore is the Republican nominee for House District 2. He faces Democrat Phyllis Harvey-Hall in the November 3 general election. Incumbent Congresswoman Martha Roby, R-Montgomery, is not seeking re-election.

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Congress

AFL-CIO endorses Adia Winfrey for Congress

Brandon Moseley

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Congressional candidate Adia Winfrey. (VIA WINFREY CAMPAIGN)

Democratic congressional candidate Adia Winfrey’s campaign announced Monday that she has received the endorsement of the Alabama AFL-CIO in Alabama’s 3rd Congressional District.

At their annual convention last week, union leaders from across the state recognized Winfrey’s “passion, ability to lead and attentiveness to the issues affecting working men and women” as reasons to endorse the Democratic challenger against incumbent Congressman Mike Rogers, R-Alabama.

“Labor unions have long been a leading force in our nation’s economy,” Winfrey wrote. “Workplace safety standards, employee benefits, equal pay for women, non-discrimination policies and so much more can be attributed directly to union members who were willing to speak up for what is right. I look forward to being a voice for Alabama’s hard-working men and women in Congress.”

Winfrey is challenging Rogers, a nine-term incumbent, in the Nov. 3 general election. During his 18 years in Congress, Rogers has earned only a 16 percent lifetime rating by the AFL-CIO for his votes.

“For seven generations, my family has called Talladega, Alabama, home,” Winfrey said. “I am the mother of four amazing children, a doctor of psychology, author, founder of the H.Y.P.E. (Healing Young People thru Empowerment) Movement, and … I am running for Congress in Alabama’s 3rd Congressional District! I believe in the future of our beautiful state and nation. It is time for leadership with a new vision which is #FocusedOnAlabama.”

Winfrey has a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Wilberforce University and a doctorate of clinical psychology degree from the Wright State University School of Professional Psychology.

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Courts

Plaintiffs ask for panel of judges to reconsider ruling on Alabama voter ID law

Eddie Burkhalter

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(STOCK PHOTO)

Plaintiffs suing Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill alleging the state’s voter ID law discriminates against minorities on Monday asked a panel of judges to reconsider an appeals court decision that affirmed the law. 

The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund on Monday filed a petition Monday asking that all of the judges on the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals reconsider the July 21 decision by a panel of three judges that fell 2-1 in favor of the state’s voter ID law. 

The 2011 law requires voters in Alabama to show a valid, government-issued photo ID to vote. The NAACP, Greater Birmingham Ministries and several minority voters sued, arguing that lawmakers knowingly crafted the law to prevent Black people and other minorities, who are less likely to have such photo IDs, from voting. 

The three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in its July 21 opinion found that the burden of Alabama’s voter ID law is minimal, and does not“violate the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments of the Constitution, nor does it violate the Voting Rights Act.”

Merrill has argued that the state’s voter ID law is meant to deter in-person voting fraud and that the state makes available mobile photo ID units able to provide voters with the necessary IDs.

District Judge Darrin Gayles in his dissenting opinion wrote that voter fraud in Alabama is rare, and that “while there have been some limited cases of absentee voter fraud, in-person voter fraud is virtually non-existent.”

Gayles wrote that Merrill presented evidence of just two instances of in-person voter fraud in Alabama’s history.

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“Despite the lack of in-person voter fraud, Secretary Merrill claims Alabama enacted the Photo ID Law to combat voter fraud and to restore confidence in elections — a dubious position in light of the facts,” Gayles wrote.

Gayles noted that former State Sen. Larry Dixon, R-Montgomery, before his retirement in 2010, sponsored similar voter ID bills.

“During this time, Senator Dixon made repeated comments linking photo identification legislation to race, including ‘the fact you don’t have to show an ID is very beneficial to the Black power structure and the rest of the Democrats’ and that voting without photo identification ‘benefits Black elected leaders, and that’s why they’re opposed to it,'” Gayles wrote in his dissenting opinion.

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“It is clear from the statements of the legislators who enacted Alabama’s photo ID law that they passed it for the unconstitutional purpose of discriminating against voters of color,” said LDF senior counsel Natasha Merle in a statement Monday. “As long as this law is intact, Black and Latinx Alabamians will continue to be disproportionately excluded from the state’s electoral process.”

Attorneys in the filing Monday told the court that “roughly 118,000 Alabamians lack qualifying photo ID, and Black and Latinx voters are twice as likely to lack qualifying ID as compared to white voters. Given this evidence, a trial was required to determine whether HB19 violates the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments.”

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