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Bill to make ballot harvesting illegal in Alabama advances senate committee

On Wednesday, the Alabama State Government Affairs Committee advanced legislation that would make it illegal for anyone to be compensated to collect absentee ballots in Alabama.

This was identified as a top priority agenda item for Governor Kay Ivey and Alabama Secretary of State Wes Allen. Senate Bill 1, the first bill pre-filed in 2024, is sponsored by State Sen. Garlan Gudger (R-Cullman). On Wednesday he introduced a substitute version of after receiving public feedback.

The bill specifically prohibits any individual from ordering, requesting, collecting, pre-filling, obtaining, or delivering an absentee ballot as well as receiving or offering payment in the process of doing so.

“I think this bill is the best for the people of the state of Alabama — and when I say the people of Alabama — I mean all the people of Alabama,” Sen. Gudger said.

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“I believe this bill helps it so that voting is secure, honest and knocks down the last leg of ways that I am going to say the bad actors in campaigns are trying to steal our elections, This bill should not be a Republican bill, this bill should not be a Democratic bill, this should not be an independent bill. This should be a bill for every Alabamian for secure elections.”

“A democratic republic can not survive if election laws allow voters to commit fraud easily,” Gudger said. “That is what is happening in our state right now through ballot harvesting.”

The Alabama House Democratic Caucus announced their opposition to this bill during their press conference earlier that same day. The Senate Committee passed the measure with a substitute following a public hearing.

“SB1 prevents ballot harvesters from interfering with Alabama’s absentee elections process by making it illegal to pay or to be paid by a third-party organization to pre-fill and/or collect absentee ballot applications. This practice manipulates the absentee elections process, threatens the security of Alabama elections, and has no place in Alabama,” Secretary Wes Allen said after passage through the committee.

“Safe, secure, and transparent elections are the foundation of our constitutional republic. As Secretary of State, ensuring free and fair elections is a top priority. Alabama votes should not be for sale. That is why I am advocating for the passage of SB1.”

Becky Garritson is the executive director of Alabama Eagle Forum. She spoke in favor of passage of SB1.

“Eagle Forum is opposed to ballot harvesting because it jeopardizes free and fair elections, it undermines ballot secrecy, and it allows ballot harvesters to prey on vulnerable voters either by third party organizations with biased [political opinions or by people they don’t really know,” Gerritson said. “Prohibiting ballot harvesting eliminates risks and hazards that could cost you your vote and provides confidence that it will be counted as it should and safeguards the sanctity of the voting process.”

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Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Reed has been a vocal proponent of getting the measure passed and on the books throughout the process.

“No greater priority exists than ensuring integrity in our elections,” Reed (R-Jasper) said.

“We must ensure absentee ballots are handled and cast in proper ways. Voting is a right that is foundational to our democracy, and we need to make certain that legitimate votes are not being diluted by fraudulent votes,” said Senator Reed. “The main goal of these efforts will be to make sure that your vote counts and that those who try to cheat our system are held accountable.”

“When individuals engage in deceptive practices during elections, it undermines the very essence of democracy, discouraging legitimate voters,” Sen. Gudger said. “The Ballot Harvesting Bill ensures the people of Alabama are the ones managing our elections without interference from bad actors.”

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