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Elections

Poll: Majority of Alabamians support masks, alternatives to in-person voting

Seventy-eight percent said they’re likely to wear face masks through the end of the year if the coronavirus pandemic persists, while 11 percent said they were unlikely to wear masks. 

Eddie Burkhalter

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(STOCK PHOTO)

A majority of Alabamians favor voluntarily wearing face masks as COVID-19 cases continue to rise, and most say they’d like alternatives to in-person voting, but there was a partisan divide in both questions, according to a new poll.

In a survey of 575 bipartisan registered Alabama voters conducted July 2-9 by Auburn University at Montgomery’s Department of Political Science and Public Administration, 78 percent said they’re likely to wear face masks through the end of the year if the coronavirus pandemic persists, while 11 percent said they were unlikely to wear masks. 

David Hughes, director of AUM Poll and assistant professor of political science, said in a statement that the poll’s findings are highly important given Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey’s recent announcement of a statewide mask mandate. 

“Alabama has struggled to flatten its growth curve of new COVID-19 infections in recent weeks, which prompted Governor Ivey to issue her statewide mask mandate,” Hughes said. “According to recent data gathered on COVID-19 cases in Alabama, the average daily number of new cases in the state has increased 69 percent in the last two weeks.”

“While the AUM Poll found a sizable majority of Alabamians are willing to wear face coverings, a clear partisan split emerged among respondents,” Hughes said. 

Among Democrats, 93 percent said they’d wear face masks, compared to 72 percent of  Republicans who said the same. The partisan divide isn’t seen in older voters, however. Of those ages 70 or older, 96 percent said they’d wear masks. 

Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill on Monday announced his decision to continue to expand absentee voting through the November general election, which is in line with what respondents in the poll said they’d like to see. Merrill’s decision allows people to vote absentee if they’re concerned about COVID-19 by marking the health excuse on the ballot application.

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Of those asked, 73 percent supported either absentee, curbside or early voting as alternatives to in-person voting on election day. A total of 94 percent of Democratic respondents said they preferred alternatives to in-person voting, though a majority — 63 percent — of Republicans also agreed.

While a majority said they’d like some alternative to in-person voting, there wasn’t a consensus on a preferred alternative. A total of 37 percent supported absentee voting, 36 percent said they’d like to see curbside voting and 31 percent preferred early voting.

Just 16 percent said they wouldn’t support any alternatives to in-person voting.

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Researchers found that while there was strong support for wearing masks and alternative to in-person voting, respondents were less supportive of voluntarily receiving a vaccination for COVID-19 — if and when a vaccine becomes available. 

Just 62 percent of respondents said they were likely to be vaccinated, with 21 percent answering they were unlikely to receive a vaccination. 

“Once again, we see partisan differences in respondents’ answers,” Hughes said. “We found 71 percent of Democrats were likely to be vaccinated compared to 59 percent of Republicans.”

A person’s economic status has an impact on whether they’d agree to take a vaccine, researchers found. According to statistical modeling, the poorest Alabamians are approximately 36 percent more likely to say they are unlikely to be vaccinated compared to the richest Alabamians, Hughes said in a press release.

“If Alabama cannot control the COVID-19 outbreak through public policies like mask ordinances, residents might have to wait for a vaccine to provide relief,” Hughes said, noting policies such as the city of Montgomery’s mask ordinance have shown to be somewhat effective given that rates of infection fell after being implemented, though that figure has ticked back up in recent days.

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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Congress

AFL-CIO endorses Adia Winfrey for Congress

Brandon Moseley

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Congressional candidate Adia Winfrey. (VIA WINFREY CAMPAIGN)

Monday, the Dr. Adia Winfrey for Congress campaign announces that she has received the endorsement of the Alabama AFL-CIO in her campaign for Congress.

At their annual convention last week, union leaders from across the state recognized Dr. Winfrey’s passion, ability to lead, and attentiveness to the issues affecting working men and women, as reasons to endorse Dr. Winfrey, the Democratic challenger, in Alabama’s Third Congressional District race.

“Labor unions have long been a leading force in our nation’s economy,” Dr. Winfrey wrote. “Workplace safety standards, employee benefits, equal pay for women, non-discrimination policies, and so much more can be attributed to 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.”

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

“For 7 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. She is the founder of the H.Y.P.E. (Healing Young People thru Empowerment) Movement.

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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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Congress

Voting rights activist calls for federal Department of Democracy

LaTosha Brown, a Selma native who co-founded Black Voters Matter, issued a statement saying that it is time to reimagine American democracy.

Micah Danney

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(VIA BLACK VOTERS MATTER)

The co-founder of an organization that is working to mobilize Black voters in Alabama and elsewhere used the 55th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act on Thursday to call for a new federal agency to protect voting rights nationwide.

LaTosha Brown, a Selma native who co-founded Black Voters Matter, issued a statement saying that it is time to reimagine American democracy.

“The Voting Rights Act should be reinstated, but only as a temporary measure. I want and deserve better, as do more than 300 million of my fellow Americans,” Brown said.

The U.S. Supreme Court invalidated a key provision of the law in a 5-4 ruling in 2013, eliminating federal oversight that required jurisdictions with a history of discrimination to get approval before they changed voting rules.

“To ensure that the Voter’s Bill of Rights is enforced, we need a federal agency at the cabinet level, just like the Department of Defense,” Brown said. “A Department of Democracy would actively look at the patchwork of election systems across the 50 states and territories. With federal oversight, our nation can finally fix the lack of state accountability that currently prevails for failure to ensure our democratic right to vote.”

She cited excessively long lines, poll site closings and voter ID laws in the recent primaries in Wisconsin, Georgia, Kentucky and Texas as voter suppression techniques that disproportionately affect Black and other communities of color.

Brown said that the July 17 passing of Rep. John Lewis, who was nearly killed marching for voting rights in Selma in 1965, has amplified calls for the Voting Rights Act to be strengthened. That’s the right direction, she said, but it isn’t enough.

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“History happens in cycles, and we are in a particularly intense one. We have been fighting for the soul of democracy, kicking and screaming and marching and protesting its erosion for decades,” Brown said.

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Elections

Alabama Forestry Association endorses Jerry Carl

Brandon Moseley

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Congressional candidate Jerry Carl.

The Alabama Forestry Association on Thursday announced its endorsement of Republican 1st Congressional District candidate Jerry Carl.

“Jerry Carl has experience working closely with the forest products industry in his role as County Commissioner and will carry that knowledge to Washington,” said AFA Executive Vice President Chris Isaacson. “Throughout his career, he has been a strong advocate for limited government and free markets and will continue to promote those same values in Congress. We are proud to endorse him.”

Carl is a small businessman who has started more than 10 small businesses in South Alabama, creating hundreds of jobs. He is currently serving on the Mobile County Commission.

“I am thrilled to earn the endorsement of ForestPAC,” Carl said. “Alabama has a thriving network of hard-working men and women in all aspects of the forestry community, and I look forward to being a strong, pro-business voice for them in Congress. As a lifelong businessman and an owner of timberland, I understand firsthand the needs and concerns of the forestry community, and I will be a tireless advocate in Washington for Alabama’s forest industry.”

Carl said that he was inspired to run for the Mobile County Commission when he became frustrated with the local government.

He and his wife, Tina, have been married for 39 years. They have three children and two grandchildren.

Carl faces Democratic nominee James Averhart in the Nov. 3 general election. Incumbent U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne, who currently represents the 1st Congressional District, did not run for another term and has endorsed Carl.

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