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State auditor: ‘Bad public policy’ to change selection of registrars

Late last year, the Association of County Commissioners of Alabama (ACCA) released its list of priorities for the 2023 legislative session.

Among those were changes to selecting the Board of Registrars for each county.

According to a news release, the ACCA is seeking to “amend Alabama law reforming the current board of registers system to ensure appointments fairly reflect the demographic makeup of each county as well as to provide increased accountability, local notification and communication, state and local oversight, and minimum qualifications for appointments.”

The board’s primary job is to maintain voter rolls and to register voters. The registrars are mostly appointed by the governor, agricultural commissioner, and state auditor.

Tuesday on WVNN’s “The Yaffee Program,” State Auditor Andrew Sorrell (R-Muscle Shoals) discussed why he’s against the ACCA’s proposed reforms.

“Let me make this clear, I’m not opposing this bill because I want to retain the power of appointing the registrars,” Sorrell said. “That’s not it. I’m opposing this bill because it’s bad public policy and it’s going to hurt our voter registration system that we have in Alabama right now.”

Sorrell said Republicans should be skeptical of any reforms to the election system proposed by Democrats.

“This is the bill that’s been around for years,” he said. “The Democrats have introduced this bill many times including last year … and it was always just ignored by us because why would we make changes regarding election law that Democrats want? Because Democrats are not moving in the direction that we need for safe and secure elections.”

He said Democrats want these changes for purely partisan purposes.

“[W]hat the Democrats wanted for years is local board appointments,” he said. “Now why would Democrats want county commissions to appoint the Board of Registrars members instead of the state auditor, the governor, and the Ag commissioner? Because many of those counties in the Black Belt and other areas are controlled by Democrats on the county commission, and I’m afraid they’re going to appoint people to the Board of Registrars who are not serious about election integrity.”

He also said he’s concerned about this issue because there are Republican lawmakers who are supporting the reforms.

“[W]hy we should be concerned about this, this year, is because Republicans are starting to support this bill, and that’s what’s got me worried,” he said. “Because in the past, we just ignored the Democrat bills, but this year a Republican may even introduce the bill, and the County Commission Association has put it as one of their top 10ten priorities for this year to pass through the legislative session. That should be worrisome to everybody listening to this program right now.”

Sorrell said his opposition is rooted in a concern for keeping Alabama’s elections secure.

“If I told you there was an election bill that Democrats unanimously supported, does that sound like something you would want your Republican legislators to vote for? The obvious answer is no,” he said. “So I need people to reach out to their legislators and tell them ‘Hey, don’t make this change. Do not vote for this bill,’ if it comes. I hope it never even comes to the floor … and I’m going to be working toward that end … the system in Alabama right now is working.”

Yaffee is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News and hosts “The Yaffee Program” weekdays 9-11 a.m. on WVNN. You can follow him on Twitter @Yaffee

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