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Federal appeals court upholds Alabama’s voter ID law

Federal appeals judges on Tuesday allowed Alabama’s voter ID law to move forward, upholding a lower court’s decision that the law is not racially discriminatory. 

Eddie Burkhalter

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(STOCK PHOTO)

Federal appeals judges on Tuesday allowed Alabama’s voter ID law to move forward, upholding a lower court’s decision that the law is not racially discriminatory.

The three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in its Tuesday opinion found that the burden of Alabama’s 2011 voter ID law, which requires voters to show government-issued photo IDs, on voters is minimal, and does not  “violate the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments of the Constitution, nor does it violate the Voting Rights Act.”

Circuit Judge Elizabeth Branch, author of the majority opinion, wrote that while the judges agreed to give credit to the Plaintiff’s argument about Alabama’s history of voting-related discrimination, “we also reiterate our caution against allowing the old, outdated intentions of previous generations to taint Alabama’s ability to enact voting legislation.”

Alabama’s Secretary of State John 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.

The judges in their majority opinion found that the Plaintiffs’ argument that the state’s voiced reasoning for the law – to combat voter fraud – was tenuous because in-person voter fraud was so rare, failed to meet legal standards because the Supreme Court  “has already held that deterring voter fraud is a legitimate policy on which to enact an election law, even in the absence of any record evidence of voter fraud.”

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, had 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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Gayles also noted that former state Sen. Scott Beason, R-Gardendale, a sponsor of Alabama’s 2011 voter ID law, recorded a meeting he had with Dixon and other Republicn sponsors of the state’s 2011 law.

“In the recordings, Senator Dixon stated: “[j]ust keep in mind if [a pro-gambling] bill passes and we have a referendum in November, every black in this state will be bused to the polls. And that ain’t gonna help” . . . ,” Gayles wrote.

Gayles also wrote that In a separate recorded meeting Beason referred to Black people as “Aborigines.”

Gayles wrote that it is undisputed that “Alabama’s Photo ID Law has a disparate impact according to race and that thousands of minority voters may be affected, some Alabama legislative leaders and sponsors of the Photo ID Law had the intent to suppress minority voters, and Alabama passed the Photo ID Law to solve a problem with in-person voting that did not exist.”

“Based on this record, there is sufficient evidence to find that Alabama’s Photo ID Law is unlawful,” Gayles wrote.

Secretary of State John Merrill in a statement Tuesday applauded the Circuit Court’s majority opinion.

“Today’s ruling by the Eleventh Circuit, affirming that the state’s photo ID law is constitutional, is a major victory for the security and integrity of elections in Alabama!” Merrill said in a statement. “Photo ID is required when purchasing alcohol or tobacco products, operating a motor vehicle, checking into a flight, purchasing a gun, or booking a hotel. Voting is equally or more important than all of these other examples where a photo ID is required. I am grateful to the Northern District Court of Alabama and the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals who have confirmed what we already knew: ‘it is so easy to get a photo ID in Alabama, no one is prevented from voting.’”

Merrill said that photo IDs “significantly reduces the potential for voter fraud to be committed, and we will remain dedicated to providing free, fair, and secure elections.”

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

Tuberville: “There is no doubt. We have got to play football”

Brandon Moseley

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Republican Senate nominee Tommy Tuberville

Former Auburn head football coach and GOP Senate candidate Tommy Tuberville said “we have got to play football” in an interview on Fox News when host Dana Perino asked Tuberville if college football should be played this year.

“Oh, there is no doubt, Dana, we have got to play football,” Tuberville said. “I know this is serious. The virus is serious. I have had friends sick in intensive care. I have actually lost a friend.”

“Let me tell you for every one person that has been sick 33 people in this country have been affected economically, socially, mentally,” Tuberville added. “We have got to get back to a normal life. We put men on the moon. We have got to be able to put our kids in a school, keep ’em protected, be socially responsible; but we have got to get back to school and a normal life.”

Tuberville warned that if we don’t get back to normal life, “our kids are the ones who are going to be affected if we don’t get back to playing football and sports and learning from each other.”

Perino asked if college athletes should be in some sort of a bubble like the NBA or Major League Baseball.

“Dana, what you got to remember is that high school kids and college kids all summer have been working with each other against each other dressing in dressing rooms,” Tuberville explained. “They have been around each other. It is like a big family. There is nobody more protected than college athletes and really high school athletes. They have got doctors. They have got ways to wash their clothes that are disinfected.”

Tuberville said that sports teams are used to dealing with infectious diseases.

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“We always have to fight the flu,” Tuberville said. “He had to fight staph infections. Those things are going to be there. They are going to be there forever.”

“We have got to fight back against this virus,” Tuberville said. “If it hits us hard we have got to take a step forward, and we can’t keep moving backward. What if this thing is still with us three years from now? We have got to move this country forward and what better way than to go back to school. Protect our kids.”

“If you don’t what to go to school, you don’t have to go,” Tuberville said. “Same thing with football. If you don’t want to play you don’t have to play.”

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“We have to get back to a normal life, but protection is the number one key,” Tuberville said. “And people are going to get infected and we can’t back up from it. Take em out like we did when I coached.”

Tuberville is the former head coach at Mississippi, Auburn, Texas Tech and Cincinnati.

The Ivy League, Big 10, MAC, PAC 12, SWAC and Mountain West Conferences have all voted to postpone the 2020 college football season to the spring. Many college football analysts are skeptical that there will ever be a spring season. That would mean play 22 college football games in one calendar year dramatically increasing injury risk.

The SEC, Big 12, and ACC have all announced their intention is to move forward with the college football season.

Tuberville on social media has slammed his opponent, incumbent Sen. Doug Jones, D-Alabama, for not voicing his support for playing football this fall.

“By not voicing support for providing teams that want to play with the opportunity to play, Doug Jones has once again failed to stand with the beliefs and desires that most Alabamians hold,” Tuberville said.

Tuberville and Jones will be on the Nov. 3 General Election ballot.

 

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Alabama AFL-CIO endorses James Averhart

Brandon Moseley

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Congressional candidate James Averhart

Democratic congressional nominee James Averhart’s campaign announced this week that he has been endorsed by the Alabama AFL-CIO in Alabama’s 1st Congressional District. He recently won the Democratic primary runoff where he defeated Kiani Gardner.

The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations is the nation’s largest union.

“I would like to thank the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) for their endorsement,” Averhart said in a statement. “I understand that the U.S. labor force is the pillar of our nation’s strength. We must protect and advance the rights and benefits that our labor force needs to work with dignity and create better lives for themselves and their families.”

“The AFL-CIO mobilizes its members and community partners to advocate for social and economic justice and strive daily to vanquish oppression and make communities better for all people—regardless of race, color, gender, religion, age, sexual orientation, or ethnic or national origin,” Averhart said. “With this being the mission, this organization has the overall goal of improving the lives of working families. I will be dedicated to advocating for policies to raise wages, increasing job training programs, providing sustainable supports to small businesses, and supporting equal pay for equal work. Working families make up the backbone of our economy. Therefore, it is imperative that working families prosper, so that our country prospers.”

Averhart faces Mobile County Commissioner Jerry Carl in the Nov. 3 general election. The seat is open because incumbent Congressman Bradley Byrne is not seeking another term in the U.S. House of Representatives.

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Alabama State Fraternal Order of Police endorses Russell Bedsole

Brandon Moseley

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Alabama House District 49 Republican candidate Russell Bedsole.

The Alabama State Fraternal Order of Police endorsed Republican candidate Russell Bedsole in the special election in Alabama House of Representatives District 49. Bedsole is a Captain with the Shelby County sheriff’s Department and currently serves on the Alabaster City Council.

“There is no doubt that our country, state, and communities are facing extreme challenges,” said Everette Johnson, the president of the Alabama State FOP. “These challenges have caused stress, divisiveness, and concern for the future of our country. Now more than ever, we need strong, yet compassionate, leaders to guide us through these turbulent times. We need leaders who understand how important the safety of our communities should be and the willingness to work together for all. Russell Bedsole is that leader.”

Bedsole said it is an honor to be endorsed by the Alabama State Fraternal Order of Police.

“As a representative of District 49, I will work to protect law and order in our communities and stand up for our conservative Christian values in Montgomery,” he said.

Bedsole and competitor Mimi Penhale were the top two vote-getters in the Republican primary runoff. Chuck Martin, who came in third, has also endorsed Bedsole.

“I wanted to again thank those that voted for me, supported me by putting up signs and making phone calls,” Martin said in a statement on social media. “I also want to thank those who also made donations to fund my campaign. Since I came in third, Russell Bedsole and Mimi Penhale have both ask for my endorsement. I want to ask those that supported me to support Russell Bedsole. Both candidates are great people, but Debbie and I made the decision to support Russell.”

Bedsole has been elected twice by the citizens of Alabaster to represent the city’s fifth ward on the Alabaster City Council. Bedsole’s campaign said that during his time of service, Alabaster has benefited from positive economic growth, a first-class school system and a high quality of life. He has also received endorsements from the Shelby County Fraternal Order of Police, Alabama Association of Nurse Anesthetists and Conservation Alabama.

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A runoff election for the District 49 seat will be held on Sept. 1.

“I humbly ask for your vote on September 1 to grant me the opportunity to serve District 49,” Bedsole said.

The special election is being held to fill the seat left vacant when Rep. April Weaver, R-Briarfield, joined President Donald Trump’s administration as a regional director of the Department of Health and Human Services. House District 49 includes portions of Bibb, Chilton and Shelby Counties. The eventual Republican nominee will face Democratic nominee Cheryl Patton in the Special General Election on Tuesday, Nov. 17. The winner will serve the remainder of April Weaver’s term, which ends in late 2022.

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Voter Protection Corps recruiting local organizers in Alabama

Micah Danney

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The national nonprofit March On is recruiting regional leaders for its Voter Protection Corps. (GRAPHIC VIA MARCH ON)

The national nonprofit March On is recruiting regional leaders for its Voter Protection Corps, a grassroots network of organizers who will be trained to spot and counteract voter suppression ahead of the 2020 election in 14 key states, of which Alabama is one.

“With closed polling places, broken machines, long lines and the assault on mail-in ballots, voter suppression efforts have reached dangerous new heights in 2020,” said Andi Pringle, March On’s director of strategic and political campaigns. “Coupled with a global pandemic, these efforts threaten our ability to hold a free, fair and safe election in November. March On is looking for young leaders who are fired up to turn out the vote and protect democracy.”

Selected recruits will function as captains who then recruit at least five volunteers to form a squad. There will be about 20 squads in each state, Pringle said.

Captains will be trained by lawyers to know the ins and outs of their local election laws. They will train their squads to help voters exercise their rights to mail-in voting and early voting and will establish relationships with local election protection initiatives, election officials and community leaders.

Voter suppression can take many forms, Pringle said, including misinformation about polling locations, voter ID laws and various legal and administrative obstacles that can prevent average people “who don’t live and breathe this stuff” from casting their vote. Fighting such tactics is generally talked about in terms of attorneys and happens on or after Election Day, but that doesn’t prevent bureaucratic disenfranchisement that occurs in the days and weeks before the election, Pringle said.

“So the vote is already suppressed before they even get to the polls,” she said.

March On is recruiting captains from the Divine 9 Black fraternities and sororities, as well as women, veterans, young professionals, college students and recent graduates. It plans to have more than 7,000 corps members nationally.

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