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Elections

Alabama probate judge featured in video asking for federal funding of elections

Brandon Moseley

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(STOCK PHOTO)

The Brennan Center For Justice released a two-minute video Wednesday featuring the voices of six election officials from across the country, including Bullock County, Alabama, Probate Judge James Tatum. This bipartisan group uses the video to talk about why they feel that they need federal funding in the next stimulus package in order to help keep the November election “safe, secure, accessible, and reliable.”

“We want to make sure that the citizens of Bullock County, the citizens of our communities throughout this great nation of our have a safe voting process,” Tatum said. “We want to make sure that everyone is safe.”

“I cannot emphasize enough that we all should work together — Democrat, Republican, Independent, young, old; it doesn’t matter,” Tatum added. “Everyone needs to come together to make sure that the democracy process take place.”

The election officials in the video make the point that due to coronavirus concerns, more people are voting absentee than ever before. This generates more work for election officials and more costs. They feel that the federal government can help make this election safer and more secure by providing emergency funding to elections officials as part of the next coronavirus relief package that is being debated in Congress now.

Congress has already provided $400 million for emergency funding for elections in the CARES Act. The Brennan Center, however, wrote that a survey of election costs in five states shows that the $400 million in the CARES Act would only cover ten to eighteen percent of what those states need to safely and effectively administer elections during the pandemic.

“What Congress has provided so far is not enough to run safe and secure elections in 2020,” Derek Fisher and Elizabeth Howard wrote for the Brennan Center. “Our review shows that the March 27 grants will likely cover anywhere from less than 10 percent of what Georgia officials need to around 18 percent of what Ohio officials need.”

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“Second, local election jurisdictions bear the heaviest burden of protecting voters and workers during the election,” Fisher and Howard wrote in their report. “In two of the states we examined, local governments must cover over 90 percent of the costs needed to ensure safe and secure elections this year. In all five states, they will bear the overwhelming share of such expenses.”

They claim that the money is needed to develop the infrastructure necessary to support changed voter behavior, protect voters and election workers during elections by giving poll workers PPE, allowing curbside voting, cleaning polling places, and ensuring that election staff can work off-site as needed without exposing election offices to cyberattacks, and to educate the public about changes made to election procedures and polling locations including notice of changed elections, moved polling sites, and new voting options to reduce density at in-person locations.

“The measures that we appraise in this document are critical,” Fisher and Howard wrote. “They come from our discussions with numerous election officials in each of the five states we examined. States need help.”

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Some states have consolidated polling places in response to the COVID-19 threat. The Brennan Center, however, says that an analysis finding that despite a surge of absentee voting, consolidating polling locations in Milwaukee reduced turnout by nearly 9 percentage points, disproportionately affecting Black voters.

Unlike some states, Alabama does not have vote by mail, multiple days and even weeks to vote, or electronic voting like some states do. Because of COVID-19 fears, Alabama is allowing voters to vote by absentee using COVID-19 as an excuse. If you are infected with the coronavirus or are just afraid that you might contract the coronavirus by voting in person you may obtain an absentee ballot.

Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill has already rejected curbside voting and stated that all Alabama polling places will be open. Poll workers did have PPE at polling places during the July 14 Republican and Democratic primary runoff elections.

You must have a valid photo ID in order to participate in any Alabama election, and you may only vote at the polling place which you are assigned. Those rules did not change.

Bullock County is a Black Belt county on the eastern side of the state with a population of 10,138 people in 2018.

At least 1,357 Alabamians have died in the coronavirus global pandemic, including 431 in July alone.

Brandon Moseley is a senior reporter with eight and a half years at Alabama Political Reporter. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Facebook. Brandon is a native of Moody, Alabama, a graduate of Auburn University, and a seventh generation Alabamian.

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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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Elections

Alabama Forestry Association endorses Tuberville

Brandon Moseley

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Republican U.S. Senate candidate Tommy Tuberville.

The Alabama Forestry Association announced Wednesday that the group is endorsing Republican Senate nominee Tommy Tuberville in the upcoming general election.

“We are proud to endorse Tommy Tuberville in the United States Senate race,” said AFA Executive Vice President Chris Isaacson. “He is a conservative with an impressive list of accomplishments, and we know that he will continue that record in his role as U.S. Senator. Tommy knows that decisions made in Washington impact families and businesses and will be an effective voice for the people of Alabama.”

“I am honored to have the endorsement of the Alabama Forestry Association,” Tuberville said. “The AFA is an excellent organization that stands for pro-business policies. Protecting Alabama industry is a key to our state’s success.”

Tuberville recently won the Republican nomination after a primary season that was extended because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Tuberville is a native of Arkansas and a graduate of Southern Arkansas University. He held a number of assistant coaching positions, including defensive coordinator at Texas A&M and the University of Miami where he won a national championship.

Tuberville has been a head coach at Mississippi, Auburn, Texas Tech and Cincinnati. In his nine years at Auburn University, the team appeared in eight consecutive bowl games. His 2004 team won the SEC Championship and the Sugar Bowl.

Tuberville coached that team to a perfect 13 to 0 season.

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Tuberville has been married to his wife Suzanne since 1991. They have two sons and live in Auburn.

Tuberville is challenging incumbent Democratic Sen. Doug Jones in the Nov. 3 general election.

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