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House OKs amendment banning election law changes six months before elections

HB388 would prevent election laws from being changed six months prior to a general election.


The Alabama House of Representatives on Tuesday passed a proposed amendment to the Alabama Constitution of 1901 that would prevent state election laws changes from applying to a general election within six months. House Bill 388 is sponsored by state Rep. Jim Carns, R-Vestavia.

‘This would keep the supermajority from passing a law that would benefit the supermajority within six months of an election,” Carns said. “This is to prevent this from happening in the future, and we do a lot of things to prevent things in the future?

“Any bill passed within six months of a general election cannot affect this election,” Carns said.

Carns explained that the Legislature could still pass an election bill within six months of a general election however: “The bill could pass but it would not apply to this election.”

State Rep. Juandalynn Givan, D-Birmingham, opposed the bill.

“I am beyond trying to excuse. I better leave that alone. The speaker has not gaveled me down,” Givan said. “I am going to start talking to corporations like they are doing in Georgia.”

“I have not seen anything that a Republican has passed in the nearly three terms that I have been here that benefited me,” Givan said. “Y’all do not want to give us nothin.”

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“I don’t see the need for this bill,” Givan said. “You all are going to have a supermajority for a while. I continue to say that we are one second away from Jim Crow.”

Rep. Ralph Howard, D-Greensboro, said: “We do have to have rules for the road in elections.”

Howard asked Carns for examples of what this would prevent.

“There are a multitude of things, but I cannot think of any examples,” Carns said. “I don’t know how to say this any simpler. This bill is to prevent anyone from changing voting laws within six months of an election.”

“We should be trying to ensure that everyone in this state has the opportunity to vote in the least restrictive way possible,” Howard said. “It is no secret that we are going to have a second pandemic.”

“This does not restrict the governor in any way,” Carns said. “We are telling the people how we are running an election.”

“I am preventing a problem from developing,” Carns said.

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“We should not have it six months out because nobody has voted yet,” Howard said.

“This is designed so people can have total confidence in the election that we are doing,” Carns said. “This bill would favor the minority party because the supermajority can come in and bend rules in their favor. It is not a secret we have 77 members of the 105 members of this body.”

“I think 90 days, I don’t object to the concept,” Howard said.

Rep. Laura Hall, D-Huntsville, said: “If this bill had been in place would we have the executive orders in place?”

“This does not put any parameters on what the governor can do,” Carns explained. “The executive orders are not touched at all.”

“The six months out are to say that we are not coming in six months out or shorter in how the election laws are enforced and how the candidates conduct their campaigns,” Carns added.

Rep. Mary Moore, D-Birmingham, said, “I know why you are bringing this. This is because they passed a law in Pennsylvania This is an ALEC bill. This bill is going through 17 Republican-controlled states.”

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“We don’t know what could come up within six months of an election, and we have already tied our hands with this,” Moore said.

“I have not talked to ALEC in two years,” Carns said.

Rep. Craig Lipscomb, D-Gadsden, brought a cloture motion to shut off the debate. The House passed that motion 75 to 24.

House Minority Leader Anthony Daniels, D-Huntsville, said: “When I looked deeper into this bill I saw the strategy. I understand the intent, but it being number one on the calendar shows that it is a priority bill. I know what this bill is about. I know there is another bill in committee that deals with elections and emergency powers in election. I understand the strategy behind this but it is not a good bill for the people of Alabama.”

HB388 passed the House by a vote of 75 to 24 along party lines.

State Rep. Napoleon Bracy, D-Prichard, said: “I had an amendment in my hand but we did not have a chance to bring it because I did not get a chance to speak.”

Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon, R-Monrovia, said: “This was carried over on Thursday and we debated it over an hour today. There is always a chance that cloture can come at any time.”

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HB388 now goes to the Senate for their consideration. Since this is a constitutional amendment, it would still have to be ratified by the voters, presumably in the 2022 general election.

Tuesday was the 19th legislative day of the 2021 Legislative Session. The Legislature will next be in session on Wednesday.

Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.

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