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SPLC accuses Alabama Secretary of State Wes Allen for providing faulty voter info

SPLC says Alabama Secretary of State sent erroneous voter info to more than 5,000 Montgomery County voters.

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The Southern Poverty Law Center, on the eve of a nationally-watched primary election, accused the Alabama Secretary of State’s office of providing erroneous voter information, resulting in thousands of voters in Alabama’s newly-drawn 2nd Congressional District being mailed voter cards wrongly stating they were in the 7th district. 

Secretary of State Wes Allen immediately pushed back on that information, claiming his office didn’t mail the cards and the voter list maintained by his office was accurate. 

The back and forth continued, ensnaring Montgomery election officials, and by the end of Monday, it still wasn’t clear who was at fault or how many erroneous cards had been mailed to voters. 

“This is more than a misstep. Providing erroneous information to thousands of voters on the eve of a hotly contested primary election could very well impact the turnout and the results of the election, for both Republicans and Democrats,” said Bradley Heard, deputy legal director for democracy and voting rights at the SPLC. “There needs to be an immediate audit and public accounting from Secretary Wes Allen’s office on the scope of the problem.” 

In a letter to SPLC, Allen demanded a retraction of the allegations and claimed that the SPLC’s central claim – that the center’s co-founder, Joe Levin, had been sent a voter card stating he was registered to vote in the 7th district – was wrong. 

“No such mailers have been distributed by this office,” a letter from Allen’s office stated. “Further, (Levin’s) state voter registration file shows that he is registered to vote for Congressional District 2, not District 7 as the release states.” 

SPLC provided APR with a copy of the voter card sent to Levin’s home. It shows that he is registered to vote in the 7th congressional district, and it also lists the appropriate districts for several other races. 

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That card, according to Montgomery Probate Judge J.C. Love was sent by the county registrars office. That office is independent of the probate office. 

Exactly who is to blame for the erroneous information turned into a hot debate, which wasn’t solved. 

Allen’s office claims that the information used to produce that card was submitted by county officials and that the Secretary of State has no authority over it. The SPLC, however, pushed back on those claims by recounting how it investigated the erroneous card sent to Levin. 

The voter file maintained by Allen’s office is available to any citizen with $40,000-plus to spend. The SPLC periodically purchases a list in order to check for errors and ensure voter list integrity. It last purchased a voter list earlier this year, and following Levin receiving his card, a spokesperson for SPLC said the center’s data department went through the list to see how many people were listed in the wrong congressional district. 

“… it appears that 5,604 voters were mislabeled in the voter file as being in the 7th Congressional District, instead of the newly formed 2nd District,” the SPLC release states. “Of those voters, 4,513 are Black.”

A spokesperson for Allen’s office, however, said that the current list shows Levin in the correct district. Also, she said the office receives its information from the county. 

When, or how, that information was changed is unclear.  If it was, in fact, only recently, that would mean that campaigns who purchased the information from Allen’s office did not reach more than 5,000 potential voters. Additionally, because the error appears confined to Montgomery, it is a big advantage to candidates better known in other areas of the 2nd district. 

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Josh Moon is an investigative reporter and featured columnist at the Alabama Political Reporter with years of political reporting experience in Alabama. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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