Alabama Republicans are again trying to make it harder for elderly and Black citizens to vote.
A new pre-filed bill would again place criminal restrictions on providing assistance to absentee voters, including elderly voters. Specifically, the bill makes it a Class A misdemeanor to request or provide an absentee ballot application for someone who isn’t a blood relative or who lives in the same household. There are also exceptions, required by federal law, for persons with disabilities.
So, if I help the war veteran who lives down the street from my parents obtain an APPLICATION – not a ballot, but just the application for the ballot – then I could be charged with a crime and possibly spend a year in jail and pay $5,000.
This is the brainchild of Rep. Jamie Kiel, R-Russellville, who tried a similar bill last year and during questioning on the floor couldn’t cite a single example of harm that might come from providing assistance in requesting absentee ballots. This year, though, he’s ready. When contacted by al.com’s Mike Cason, Kiel had the perfect example of fraud.
“You’ve got someone that you don’t know and I don’t know that goes to a residential complex and goes door-to-door filling out applications,” Kiel told al.com
Ahhh. A “residential complex,” huh? What sort of “residential complex” are we talking about here?
But don’t worry, y’all, because Kiel said last year that “it’s not our intention to keep people from voting.”
That would be true, except for the part where that’s exactly their intention. To keep certain people from voting.
But even when Kiel is describing the problem with assisting a person in obtaining an absentee ballot, he can’t come up with an actual crime. Instead, as he told al.com, he just imagines scenarios in which people going door to door in … ahem, a “residential complex” … could collect addresses and names and then … “There’s ample opportunity for bad things to happen.”
Yes. Bad things like those people voting for decent, compassionate, well qualified candidates, and then where would guys like Kiel be?
Unfortunately, Kiel’s efforts are now getting an assist from Alabama’s new Secretary of State, Wes Allen, who’s supporting the bill.
I remember a few years ago when I wrote that one day the sane people of this state would miss John Merrill in that office. Oh, the emails I received from outraged progressives. I’ll accept your apologies now.
In a very short time period, Allen has proven that the state will be participating in every insane rightwing effort to suppress voters and limit voting access, and that we’re perfectly willing to place pandering and personal political advancement well above the good of the voting public.
Like Kiel, Allen also couldn’t cite an example of fraud that has or could occur from merely assisting someone in obtaining an absentee ballot. He just wants to protect the absentee ballot process “from being manipulated.”
You know, some might define “manipulation” as a group of lawmakers abusing the legislative process in such a manner that they create unneeded – and some might argue unconstitutional – impediments that prevent legal voters from participating in the absentee ballot process.
There’s also a Senate sponsor for the bill this year – Garlan Gudger, R-Cullman – and that’s even more discouraging, since it was that body that put an end to this charade last year by never bringing the controversial and unconstitutional bill for a vote.
But at this point, after the lengths Alabama has gone to blatantly – on a national stage – disenfranchise so many voters, nothing surprises me anymore. There’s no stupid or incredibly offensive justification they won’t spew to suppress voting.
Just look at the excuses for this bill – the conservative fever dream of all the ways those tricky libs can “manipulate” these poor, dumb rubes living in these “residential complexes.” Kiel says that after the application is submitted, the person who assisted with that could then come back and “help” with filling out the actual ballot.
So, in other words: Two adults will have a conversation about voting, at the end of which one of the adults will make a choice on which candidates to select.
Um, I believe that’s free speech.
Could something nefarious take place? Maybe. But I guarantee you that whatever happens it will be no more egregious, and certainly far less harmful, than the disinformation that led to the cult members of a former gameshow host and failed businessman charging into our nation’s Capitol Building and smearing human feces on the walls.
The fact is all of this is BS. That’s why it sounds so dumb and why no one can really explain why this bill is necessary.
Republicans aren’t afraid of fraud. They’re afraid of high voter turnouts. They’re afraid that poor people and Black people and Hispanic people and marginalized people of all sorts and disabled people and smart people and fed up people will learn about the absentee process and how easy it is. That they’ll take advantage of it and submit ballots. That they’ll vote for candidates who back policies they like.
They’re not trying to stop fraud. They’re trying to stop voting.