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As Alabama primary nears, voter suppression is alive and well

All across this country, the right to vote is under attack. But with your support, we’re fighting back in Southern courts and state legislatures with a newly formed team of legal, policy, and grassroots advocates.

One week from today, on March 3, voters will go to the polls in Alabama – the epicenter of the people’s movement for voting rights in the 1960s, but today a place where voting is still particularly hard for many.

The state remains one of the most difficult places in the nation for an eligible voter to register and successfully cast a ballot. 

After all the blood, sweat, and tears Alabamians have shed for their right to vote, this state should be a model for expanded access to the ballot. Instead, Jim Crow continues to cast a long shadow on its elections, which remain – by design – a confusing system filled with obstacles for historically disenfranchised communities.

Alabama is a microcosm of the multi-pronged assault on the right to vote in this country – an assault that gained significant momentum when the U.S. Supreme Court gutted a key provision of the Voting Rights Act with its 2013 Shelby County v. Holder decision.

In our new report – Alive and Well: Voter Suppression and Election Mismanagement in Alabama – we’ve compiled myriad tactics used to suppress votes in a state that will soon commemorate the 55th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday,” the brutal attack on peaceful marchers in Selma, which led to passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

You can find the digital version of our report here.

From photo voter ID laws to felony disenfranchisement schemes to polling place closures in predominantly Black counties, Alabama’s history of racial discrimination and the modern-day tactics of voter suppression are felt in every corner of the state.

Our report highlights a fragmented election administration system that hides behind weak open records laws and opaque governing structures. These problems are not unique to Alabama, but combined with strict rules about when and how to vote, Alabama might be the voter-suppression capital of the United States. 

Unlike its neighbors, Alabama has not adopted reforms to make voting easier. Our report details a series of reforms that Alabama (and other states) should adopt that, when taken together, are proven strategies for creating a healthier, more representative democracy:

  • No-excuse absentee voting
  • Early voting
  • Vote by mail
  • Same-day registration
  • Automatic voter registration
  • Make election day a state holiday
  • End photo voter ID
  • Automatically restore voting rights upon completion of prison sentence (for crimes of moral turpitude)
  • Release the list of voters to be purged from the rolls 30 days prior
  • Increase and standardize training for registrars and poll workers
  • Charge a reasonable fee for the state’s voter file (currently $35,000)
  • Strengthen public records laws
  • Hold the Secretary of State’s office accountable for training and support of election workers

Alabama makes it hard to vote, but the solutions are easy if lawmakers truly wanted to ensure everyone can vote. Alabama should pursue these policies not only because it is in the best interest of voters to access the ballot box but also because it will modernize and ensure the integrity of Alabama’s elections.

Read more in our report: Alive And Well: Voter Suppression and Election Mismanagement in Alabama.

Thank you for all that you do in the fight for voting rights.