MONTGOMERY — The Alabama House of Representatives on Tuesday evening passed HB 167 as amended; this bill, sponsored by Rep. Chris Blackshear (R-Phenix City), would prohibit an individual from voting multiple times in a single election.
Under current state law, it is already illegal to vote more than once in Alabama in the same election; however, it is not currently a violation of state law for someone to vote in the state of Alabama even if they have voted in another state in the same election, such as a presidential election.
The vote to pass HB 167 was 76-12, with five abstentions.
Voting against the bill were Reps. Barbara Boyd, Prince Chestnut, Adline Clarke, Merika Coleman, Anthony Daniels, Chris England, Juandalynn Givan, Laura Hall, Sam Jones, Tashina Morris, Neil Rafferty and John Rogers — all Democrats.
Abstaining were Reps. Barbara Drummond, Berry Forte, Jeremy Gray, Dexter Grimsley and Rod Scott, also all Democrats.
The Democratic opposition to the bill even came after Blackshear accepted an amendment proposed by England, who is also the chairman of the Alabama Democratic Party. That amendment changed the penalty provision for the newly created offense from a Class C Felony to a Class A misdemeanor. The amendment would institute the same change for the existing offense of voting more than once in Alabama in the same election.
The bill stipulates that an individual would have to knowingly, intentionally vote more than once in a single election for the act to be a crime.
Blackshear, in explaining the background of the bill, said data has shown that at least six Alabamians voted in multiple states in the same election in 2018; data is not yet available from the 2020 election. The bill sponsor stressed that while six voters is a minuscule percentage of the ballots cast statewide, one instance of voter fraud is one too many for his liking.
The first Democrat to originally rise in opposition to the bill during floor debate was Rep. Napoleon Bracy of Mobile. However, Bracy ended up voting in favor of the legislation when it came time.
The second representative to speak against HB 167 was Forte, the representative from Eufaula whose district borders Blackshear’s district on the Alabama-Georgia border.
In wide-ranging remarks, Forte blasted former President Donald Trump’s claims that the 2020 presidential contest was “rigged” and “stolen” from him.
The Democratic representative also claimed HB 167 was actually aimed at suppressing the votes of African-Americans.
“All these bills y’all are passing ain’t going to stop [people from voting],” Forte said on the floor. “Everybody thought that everything was going to stop when Dr. King got assassinated, but it didn’t stop. … I don’t understand all these bills coming out.”
Forte several times, referring to Trump, rhetorically asked how one could rig a modern election. Given the opportunity to respond, Blackshear noted that “has absolutely nothing to do with HB 167.”
“This is nothing but voter suppression, you know that,” Forte retorted.
“Do you think that every individual should have the right to vote?” asked Blackshear.
“I would think so,” Forte answered.
“OK, and if they do, do they have the right to vote one time, two times, three times — more than once?” Blackshear queried.
Forte did not answer this question, only asking Blackshear how many people in his district have voted in multiple states in the same election.
“This bill is not doing anything suppressing the vote,” Blackshear underscored.
“Yes it is,” Forte argued.
At this point in the conversation, Forte turned his attention to comparing HB 167 to the persecution of Nelson Mandela in Apartheid-era South Africa.
“He was just trying to get folks to vote,” Forte said. “A predominantly black country, run by white folks.”
After reminiscing how Mandela eventually was elected president of South Africa, Forte continued, “So, what are y’all afraid of? What are y’all afraid of suppressing folks’ votes? … Y’all afraid we’ll take over and elect another black president?”
“And I’m not a racist. I got just as many white folk friends that I got black folk friends,” he added, unprompted.
Givan in her floor speech blasted HB 167. She also doubled down on her recent comments.
“I am very unapologetic about the persons in this House — I don’t call them my colleagues — but they are members of the House of Representatives,” Givan said. “I called the thing as I saw it. I’m going to call it tonight.”
“We are one step — we can be friendly, we can rub elbows, that’s fine, if that’s the rules, if that’s what you want to imitate here, that’s fine — but I have the right to speak my voice,” she continued. “We are one step away from Jim Crow. One suit and one tie away from Jim Crow in the state of Alabama. We are one step away from counting jellybeans in a jar as black folks here in the state of Alabama.”
Givan soon thereafter claimed that passing a bill to ensure Alabamians are not voting multiple times in the same election was disenfranchisement.
“We are standing here passing legislation to further disenfranchise the black vote,” she asserted.
Givan advised that the bill’s “true intent” is to “disenfranchise the black voters, no different than what Georgia is doing with the legislation that says you cannot even give a person a bottle of water.”
“You give dogs water,” the representative from Birmingham remarked.
She subsequently stated that the State of Alabama should not penalize people for or police the practice of voting in multiple states in a single election.
“Y’all should stop sugarcoating these bills of death that you all are doing to be bringing here,” Givan said, directed at her Republican colleagues.
“Poll taxes — that’s where we’re headed in the state of Alabama,” she decried. “One step away.”
“And again, I stand by my comments from three weeks ago. They’re not the only ones. They were just the ones that I called out,” Givan concluded.
England followed that performance, calling the bill a solution in search of a problem. In his remarks, he also expressed support for lowering all voter fraud crimes from a Class C Felony to a Class A misdemeanor.
Several other members spoke before Blackshear ultimately accepted England’s amendment, which coincidentally, or perhaps not, ended debate on the bill.
HB 167 now heads to the Senate for consideration.
Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn