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SPLC, Secretary of State remain at odds over voter misinformation

The back and forth between the SPLC and secretary of state continued on Tuesday over faulty voter cards sent in CD2.

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A heated back and forth between the Alabama Secretary of State’s Office and the Southern Poverty Law Center continued on Tuesday, with each accusing the other of misleading Alabamians about erroneous voter information cards that were sent to voters in the 2nd congressional district. 

On Monday, the SPLC issued a press release “blasting” Secretary of State Wes Allen and his office for the cards, which, according to the SPLC, wrongly listed more than 5,000 voters in the 7th district. Allen’s office responded to the allegations by claiming that the error was at the county level and that SPLC should retract its release. 

On Tuesday, both sides doubled down, even as the Montgomery County Registrars Office attempted to take blame for the error. Elections officials in Montgomery blamed the erroneous cards on a “computer glitch.”  

In a letter from SPLC deputy legal counsel Bradley Heard, the SPLC noted that Center’s co-founder, Joe Levin, had received an erroneous card (a picture of which was provided to APR) and that according to Alabama code, it is the SOS’s responsibility to maintain an accurate voter list. 

“If a local registrar is sending out erroneous information to voters based on information contained in a statewide database, it is nevertheless ultimately the Secretary’s responsibility to determine the source of the original error, the number of voters it impacted (including absentee voters who may have been sent an incorrect ballot), and to ensure corrective measures are taken,” Heard’s letter states. “We again ask that the Secretary immediately provide a full and complete explanation for how this error occurred and what corrective measures have and will be taken to ensure that absentee and in-person voters receive the correct ballot for tomorrow’s election.”

Allen’s office hit back with a lengthy letter from chief legal counsel Michael Jones outlining a number of issues with SPLC’s claims, and called them “potentially illegal.” 

Jones’ letter stated that all voter information for the 2nd congressional district was accurate in the voter file, that all voters received the proper ballots, that all absentee ballots were properly distributed, that no precinct information was involved and that no erroneous information was provided by the SOS office. 

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It also accused the SPLC of using information that was only erroneous for a brief period to paint the office in a negative light. 

“In light of these facts, it appears that SPLC has chosen to hold and strategically weaponize the release of information that may have been partially true temporarily or while Montgomery County officials were working to update congressional district data for Montgomery County registered voters,” the letter stated. “Such is no longer true and was not true yesterday when SPLC issued its press release.” 

However, a spokesperson for SPLC told APR on Monday that it received its voter list from Allen’s office a few weeks ago, and it contained the erroneous information. The letter from Allen’s office also notes that the erroneous cards went out on Jan. 24, and that the data within the file at the Montgomery County Registrars Office could have been wrong at that point. 

It remains unclear if the Registrars Office was working directly from the voter file maintained by Allen’s office, or if it was working with information stored on its computers.

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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