The Wire

  • Black Bear Sightings Continue to Increase in Alabama

    Excerpt from an Outdoor Alabama news release:

    Add Jackson, Limestone, Marshall, Morgan and St. Clair counties to the growing list of black bear sightings in Alabama in 2018. In recent years, bears have also been recorded in Chambers, Elmore, Jefferson, Lee, Macon and Tallapoosa counties. These recent sightings are more evidence of the state’s expanding black bear population.

    Biologists from the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources say the increase in sightings may be due to a combination of factors including changes in bear distribution, habitat fragmentation, seasonal movement and the summer mating season. However, most spring and summer bear sightings are of juvenile males being pushed out of their previous ranges by their mothers and other adult males.

    Historically, a small population of black bears have remained rooted in Mobile and Washington counties. Baldwin, Covington and Escambia counties on the Florida border host yet another population of bears. In northeast Alabama, bears migrating from northwest Georgia have established a small but viable population.

    “While seeing a black bear in Alabama is uncommon and exciting, it is no cause for alarm,” said Marianne Hudson, Conservation Outreach Specialist for the Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF). “There has never been a black bear attack on a human in Alabama.”

    Black bears are typically secretive, shy animals that will avoid human interaction. Occasionally, a curious bear will explore a human-populated area in search of food.

    “If you are lucky enough to see a bear, simply leave it alone,” Hudson said.

  • Rep. Byrne Releases Statement on Russia

    From a Bradley Byrne news release:

    Congressman Bradley Byrne (R-AL) issued the following statement regarding President Donald Trump’s meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, this morning in Helsinki.

    Congressman Byrne said: “I applaud President Trump’s decision to start a dialogue with President Putin and I’m glad he is making it a priority. However, we must remember that Russia is not an ally – economically or militarily. They are an adversary. The United States should not tolerate actions by the Russians that intervene in our domestic affairs or pose a threat to our national security.”

  • Alabama Recreational Red Snapper Season Closes July 22

    Excerpt from an Outdoor Alabama news release:

    The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Marine Resources Division (MRD) announces the closure of Alabama state waters to the harvest of red snapper by private anglers and state-licensed commercial party boats at 11:59 p.m. Sunday, July 22, 2018. The quota of 984,291 pounds issued under NOAA Fisheries’ Alabama Recreational Red Snapper Exempted Fishing Permit (EFP) is expected to be met by the closure date.

    “Alabama anglers fished extremely hard on the good weather days during the season,” said Marine Resources Director Scott Bannon. “That level of effort, coupled with larger average-sized fish harvested this year as compared to last year, resulted in a daily harvest rate two times higher than 2017, which prompted an earlier than anticipated closure.

    “The purpose of the EFP was to demonstrate Alabama’s ability to establish a season and monitor landings within a fixed quota and I think we have shown we can do that,” said Bannon.

    Anglers are reminded of the following:

    — Possession of red snapper in Alabama waters while state waters are closed is prohibited regardless of where the fish were harvested.
    — Alabama anglers may fish in federal waters off the coast of Alabama (outside of 9 nm) and land in a state that is open to the landing of red snapper, but they must adhere to the open state’s rules and not transit in Alabama state waters with red snapper on board.
    — The season for federally-permitted charter for-hire vessels will close at 12:01 a.m. July 22.

1 year ago

Alabama Secretary of State puts 200 years of legislation and history on the web

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Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — In 2017, Alabamians finally have access to their entire legislative history thanks to the work of Secretary of State John Merrill (R-Ala.) and the Alabama Department of Archives and History. Their combined efforts put almost 200 years of legislation online for a cost of less than $23,000.

Prior to the latest project, Alabamians could only find two periods of state legislation on the web. The first was from the founding of the state in 1819 to 1901, when the current state constitution was adopted. The second was from the year 2000 to the present. Now, the 99 year gap in the middle has been completely closed.

The gap that people previously lacked online access to includes several crucial periods in the state’s history, such as populist reform movements in the early 1900s, the Great Depression, the gubernatorial administrations of George Wallace, and the Civil Rights Movement.

Merrill noted that this history was a strong motivating factor for getting the job done. “It is important for the people of Alabama to have access to their history and to know what occurred throughout our history,” he said. “Digitizing the Acts and making them publicly available for everyone is important to ensure that all Alabamians have access to this information. By providing this information online, citizens will have access at their fingertips of all Alabama’s Legislative Acts since statehood.”

Those interested in examining the state’s records can do so on the Secretary of State’s website linked here.

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1 year ago

Former Auburn coach files paperwork to run for Alabama Governor

Former Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville is continuing to fuel rumors that he will soon announce a run for governor.

According to reports, Tuberville has filed paperwork with the Secretary of State’s office, indicating that he has loaned himself $100,000 ahead of a run and would declare as a Republican.

Tuberville is the second GOP candidate to file with the state, including Public Service Commission President Twinkle Cavanaugh.

Though he is certainly drawing closer to making an announcement, Tuberville still says that he has not made a decision. However, last week he said that he has spent the past few weeks on a “listening tour” across the state.

“I’m going around the state talking to people, visiting with police chiefs, sheriffs. I’ve done a lot of research,” Tuberville told the station. “I’m going to take a couple of weeks and talk to people and see what needs they have, what questions they have about the state, and what I would do if I happened to be the governor.”

“It’s been fun,” he added. “It’s still about competition. It’s about leading. It’s about doing things to make peoples’ lives better.”

Tuberville coached Auburn’s football team from 1999 to 2008.

Last week, Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle also suggested that he is considering a run for governor.

There will likely be many candidates for the state’s top executive position in 2018. Others who are said to be mulling a run include ousted Chief Justice Roy Moore, State Auditor Jim Zeigler, Jefferson County Commissioner David Carrington, and Secretary of State John Merrill.

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1 year ago

Alabama Secretary of State to launch “refresh” of voter rolls

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Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill

If you’re a registered voter in Alabama, you will soon hear from Secretary of State John Merrill.

Merrill announced last week that he would begin a “voter record refresh” effort to ensure accurate voting information for the state’s 3.3 million registered voters.

“During my time as Alabama’s 53rd Secretary of State, our office has registered more than 600,000 new voters. As we work to ensure every Alabamian is afforded the opportunity to register to vote, it is also important to account for address changes and deaths that could artificially inflated the State’s voter rolls. That is why this process is so important and must be completed every four years,” said Secretary Merrill.

The Secretary of State’s office says that the clean-up will ensure compliance with the National Voter Registration Act, which requires periodic contact with voters to ensure the most accurate information is on file to allow each voter to have the biggest impact on the elected officials that represent them at the local, county, state, and federal level.”

While the measure is routine, action to ensure integrity in the voter rolls comes amid President Trump’s promise that a “major investigation” is coming to crack down on illegal votes.

Since the election, the President has said that “millions” voted in 2016 unlawfully. It’s a claim that Alabama Congressman Mo Brooks says has some validity.

“I pledge to support you in any way I can,” he told Vice President Mike Pence during a meeting last week.

“I perceive that the president may be spot on, as he is identifying this voter fraud problem, although he can’t really itemize the magnitude,” Brooks said.

The Vice President responded by saying that the Administration is readying actions to ensure the integrity of U.S. elections.

“We have an obligation to preserve democratic institutions and the democratic process, Pence responded. “What I can tell you is that I would anticipate that the Administration is going to initiate a full evaluation of voting rolls in the country, the overall integrity of our voting system in the wake of this past election.”

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2 years ago

Everything you need to know about how to absentee vote in Alabama

Voting booths (Photo: Flickr)
Voting booths (Photo: Flickr)

Absentee Ballot Application

To obtain an absentee ballot, write or visit the local Absentee Election Manager (usually the Circuit Clerk), request an absentee ballot, and provide the following:

• Name and residential address
• Election for which the ballot is requested
• Reason for absence from polls on election day
• Party choice, if the election is a party primary*
• Address to which the ballot should be mailed and

• Voter signature (if a mark is made in place of a signature, it must be witnessed)

*It is not necessary to give a party choice for a general election.

The absentee ballot application must be returned to the Absentee Election Manager by the voter in person (or by the voter’s designee in the case of medical emergency voting) or by U.S. Mail.

Upon receiving the absentee ballot application, the Absentee Election Manager may request additional evidence on the reason for voting absentee if the voter has a history of continuous absentee voting.

APPLICATIONS FOR MILITARY PERSONNEL AND OVERSEAS CITIZENS — Applications submitted by military personnel, their spouses or dependents, and U.S. citizens residing overseas are valid for all federal, state, and county elections in the current calendar year. However, these voters should ensure that they keep their mailing addresses updated with their counties’ Board of Registrars and with their Absentee Election Manager.


Ballot Receipt/Return – Non-UOCAVA Voters

If the absentee ballot application is approved, the Absentee Election Manager:

• Forwards the absentee ballot by U.S. Mail; or
• Personally hands the absentee ballot to the voter (or to a designee in the case of medical emergency voting).

BALLOT PROCEDURE — The absentee ballot comes with three envelopes — one plain (the secrecy envelope), one with an affidavit, or oath, printed on the outside, and one plain, pre-addressed envelope (the outer envelope). Once the voter casts the ballot, the procedure is as follows:

• Seal the ballot in the plain envelope (the secrecy envelope).
• Place the plain envelope inside the accompanying affidavit envelope.
• Seal the affidavit envelope and complete the affidavit that is on the outside of the envelope.
• Sign the affidavit and have the signature witnessed by either a notary public or two witnesses 18 years of age or older.
• Place the affidavit envelope and a COPY of the voter’s photo voter identification inside the outer envelope, unless exempt as an elderly voter or voter with disability whose polling place is inaccessible (see page 6).
• Remember to place a copy of your ID (NOT THE ORIGINAL) inside the outer envelope.

WITNESSES OR NOTARIZATION — An absentee ballot cannot be counted unless the affidavit is notarized or has the signatures of two witnesses.

SUBMITTING THE VOTED BALLOT — The voter is required to use one of the following methods for returning his or her absentee ballot:

• Send the ballot to the Absentee Election Manager by U.S. Mail; or
• Personally deliver the ballot to the Absentee Election Manager (or by a designee in the case of medical emergency voting).

VOTING DEADLINE — An absentee ballot returned by mail must be postmarked no later than the day prior to the election. If hand-delivered by the voter, the ballot must be in the Absentee Election Manager’s office by the close of business (but no later than 5 PM) on the day prior to the election. The absentee ballot must be received by the Absentee Election Manager by noon on election day if, the ballot is mailed.

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2 years ago

Ahead of pres. election, Alabama first to implement electronic voting for deployed military

An instructor approaches a Black Hawk helicopter on Fort Rucker (Photo: Fort Rucker Flickr photostream)
An instructor approaches a Black Hawk helicopter on Fort Rucker (Photo: Fort Rucker Flickr photostream)
An instructor approaches a Black Hawk helicopter on Fort Rucker (Photo: Fort Rucker Flickr photostream)

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Alabama is the first state in the country to implement fully electronic voting for service members stationed overseas, a system that will be used for the first time in a Presidential election this year after being previously rolled out in limited use in late 2015.

Alabama National Guard Maj. Chris Theilacker told WSFA he and other Alabamians deployed around the globe are excited about the more streamlined process to vote.

“It doesn’t seem like a lot of trouble, but taking the time out to request that ballot, wait for it to get there, mail may or may not ever get to you when you are in an overseas environment,” Theilacker said. “I go out everyday to make sure our citizens have the right to vote, so by the state and the city providing access to voting no matter where in the world we are, that says a lot about their commitment.”

Alabama Rep. Barry Moore (R-Enterprise), a military veteran who was instrumental in passing a bill setting up the new system, told Yellowhammer he hopes it will make life easier for Alabamians who are deployed serving their country.

“As chairman of the House Committee on Military and Veterans, I am proud Alabama is leading the way on this important issue,” he said. “Americans’ voting rights are sacred. Nothing could be more important than ensuring that the men and women who are protecting our freedoms abroad have a voice in our political process. That is what this law does.”

Secretary of State John Merrill concurred.

“Every military serviceman or woman who is interested in voting now has the opportunity to receive their ballot electronically, to vote electronically, and have their ballot returned electronically,” he concluded. “They’ll have their vote cast and counted the same way they would if they were at their home with their family.”

So who will they be voting for?

A recent NBC/Survey Monkey poll shows Republican Donald J. Trump leading Democrat Hillary Clinton by double-digits among active military and veterans. Fifty-five percent say they favor Trump, while 36 percent back Clinton.

The election is set to take place Tuesday, November 8, 2016.

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2 years ago

NAACP sues Alabama because voters elected all white judges to the state’s top courts

United States District Court for the Middle District of Alabama (Photo: Court)
United States District Court for the Middle District of Alabama (Photo: Court)
United States District Court for the Middle District of Alabama (Photo: Court)

The Alabama State Conference of the NAACP is representing four black voters in a lawsuit against the State of Alabama, claiming that Alabama voters’ decision to elect white judges to each of the state’s top courts violates their constitutional rights.

Liberal political blog ThinkProgress explains:

On Wednesday, Tuscaloosa reverend Curtis Travis and three other African American voters sued the state for conducting its judicial elections in a way they say prevents voters of color from electing the candidates of their choice. They argue that at-large elections, in which the entire state votes on all of the state’s top judges, has prevented them from electing anyone who truly represents them.

The lawsuit was filed in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Alabama.

Alabama’s Supreme Court, Court of Civil Appeals and Court of Criminal Appeals are each elected on the statewide ballot, resulting in the 19 slots currently being filled by 14 men and 5 women, all of them white.

“There have been years of minorities making strides, but the white men continue to hold disproportionate power our state,” Reverend Travis told reporters. “Alabama is more diverse now than ever, but our judges are not.”

Jim Blacksher, an attorney for the plaintiffs, blamed the Republican Party for the election results and said the statewide elections are part of a nefarious plot to ensure “black Alabamians remain subordinate to whites in state government.”

“The Republican Party has really mobilized the majority-white electorate of Alabama,” he bemoaned. “So the only way African Americans will have a chance to elect candidates of their choice is if the method of elections is changed.”

What the plaintiffs are pushing for is a change to the way Alabama elects its judges.

They want the state to be divided into districts that each elect a member of the Supreme Court, Court of Civil Appeals and Court of Criminal Appeals, similar to how members of the U.S. Congress are currently chosen.

“The at-large method of electing judges to the three high courts submerges African-American voters so that they are rendered ineffective electoral minorities in every election,” their lawsuit reads.

Secretary of State John Merrill, Alabama’s top elections official, said it would be “inappropriate” to comment on the suit at this time, but added that his office works daily to ensure “every eligible Alabamian is registered to vote and has a valid form of ID allowing them to participate on Election Day.”

The lawsuit comes at a time when voting rights issues are the focus of intense political and legal battles.

Last week, a federal appeals court ruled that would-be voters in Alabama will not be required to show proof of U.S. citizenship when using a federal voter registration form.

The Washington Post called the decision a “victory for civil rights groups, Democratic lawyers and the Obama administration” in “their ongoing battle with conservative lawyers and Republican lawmakers over who will be eligible to vote in this year’s presidential contest.”

Alabama State Rep. Jim Patterson accused opponents of the proof-of-citizenship and voter ID requirements of trying to “steal elections.”

“The two judges that overruled the states should be arrested for treason!” he exclaimed in a Facebook post. “They have no clue about the Constitution! This is not about voter rights, it’s about people voting that are not qualified!”

RELATED: Scalia’s successor on Supreme Court could decide whether Alabama’s voter ID law survives

In spite of the proof-of-citizenship ruling, Alabama’s photo voter ID law remains in effect, although Democrats across the country continue decrying it as “racist” and “hateful”.

In an October 2015 visit to Hoover, Hillary Clinton slammed Alabama Republicans for requiring proof of citizenship to vote and for shuttering driver’s license offices in the wake of state budget cuts. The Democratic presidential nominee insisted that both issues were examples of Republicans trying to return Alabama to its Jim Crow past.

RELATED: Bentley and Clinton spar over whether Alabama Republicans are racists

“We have to defend the most fundamental right in our democracy, the right to vote,” she said. “No one in this state, no one, should ever forget the history that enabled generations of people left out and left behind to finally be able to vote.”

Before that, Vice President Joe Biden chided supporters of voter ID laws in light of liberal defeat in the Supreme Court case of Shelby County v. Holder which stemmed from a legal challenge in Alabama. “These guys never go away,” Biden said. “Hatred never, never goes away. The zealotry of those who wish to limit the franchise cannot be smothered by reason.”

RELATED: Biden: There’s ‘hatred’ behind Alabama’s photo voter ID law

Since 2008, Republican-controlled legislatures in 17 states have adopted new voting-related laws. Among those are Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin, which passed laws requiring a photo ID to vote. (h/t The Daily Beast)

Conservatives have long argued it is reasonable to require photo voter ID in order to protect the sanctity of elections, particularly because photo ID is also required for any number of other activities, from buying alcohol and opening a bank account, to getting on an airplane and renting a car.

But several lower courts have in recent months agreed with Democrats’ assertion that such laws are discriminatory.

There are currently at least 10 different types of ID that are acceptable to use at the polls (including a driver’s license) and the Secretary of State’s office also offers free Alabama photo voter ID cards and free non-driver IDs for purposes of voting.

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2 years ago

Secretary of State: Foreign election observers are not allowed in Alabama. Period.

Alabama law prohibits foreign election observers from being present on election day.
Alabama law prohibits foreign election observers from being present on election day.

On November 8, 2016, the citizens of The United States will elect a new president. As the Secretary of State and the chief election official of our state, I am charged to lead our team members and designated county elections officials for the state of Alabama as we prepare to hold an election with what we expect to be the highest general election turnout in state history, while making every effort to secure the future of our nation through this election.

On Wednesday, an opinion piece titled “The UN is sending foreign ‘election observers’ into Alabama. They must be stopped.” was posted on Yellowhammer. The author of the piece expressed concern regarding potential visits to our state in an official capacity from election observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). This group has worked for years to democratize nations across Europe and Asia from their former socialist and communist eras.

Based on my reading of the editorial opinion, there appears to be a misunderstanding related to Alabama state law, which prevents election observations from external entities. Specifically, in section 17-8-7 in the Code of Alabama, which reads, “Each watcher shall be a resident and qualified elector of the State of Alabama.”

At this point it would be appropriate to note that since the law has not been changed, neither this group or any other group that is from outside the state of Alabama will be granted permission nor has the authority to observe our elections or participate in our elections in any capacity whatsoever.

In July, I attended the National Association of Secretaries of State conference in Nashville. Following a presentation from U.S. Ambassador Daniel Baer, I visited with and was subsequently invited by a team from the OSCE to deploy in September on a mission to observe elections in the Russian Federation and to have Alabama participate in the observation process as well. My team and I reviewed what observation would consist of and quickly determined that this was not something that would be permissible in our state. That is to say the OSCE will not be allowed in the state of Alabama. We communicated that information with them.

I will, however be deploying with my Deputy Chief of Staff and Communications Director, John Bennett, to the Russian Federation to observe and work to help provide for safe and credible elections in the Russian Federation.

Make no mistake that foreign election observers are not allowed and will not be permitted in our state under current Alabama law.

Further, the intent of these observation initiatives, like the one that John Bennett and I will be participating in, is to provide understanding and learning experiences for election officials to take back to their home countries.

It is clear to me from this opinion piece that whatever is being suggested is not only misguided but lacks any basis in fact. The OSCE is an international institution that has worked for over 40 years to promulgate democracy, of which protecting the very integrity of the elections process is our most important job as elected officials.

As Alabamians and Americans you are not and will not be asked to, “surrender our sovereignty and our God-given constitutional rights,” by anyone.

Thank you for giving me the privilege to serve as your secretary of state.


John Merrill serves as Alabama’s Secretary of State

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2 years ago

Alabama moves to protect election systems after FBI discovers hacks in other states

Voting Booths

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Alabama elections officials are moving to ensure the state’s voting systems are secure in the wake of revelations that the voter databases in at least two other states have been breached in recent months.

According to a Reuters report, “The Federal Bureau of Investigation has found breaches in Illinois and Arizona’s voter registration databases and is urging states to increase computer security ahead of the Nov. 8 presidential election.”

The database breaches do not “necessarily suggest an effort to manipulate the votes themselves,” but raise concerns at a time when cyber security is already playing a significant role in the presidential election. The Democratic National Committee was hacked last month, with embarrassing emails showing coordination between the DNC and the Hillary Clinton campaign being released publicly. The hack, which intelligence officials have pinned on Russian operatives, led to the resignation of DNC chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

David Kennedy, the CEO of TrustedSec, a firm specializing in information security, told Reuters the latest attacks on voter databases were “largely exploratory and not especially sophisticated.” He added, however, that “it could be a precursor to a larger attack.”

The Alabama Secretary of State’s office told Yellowhammer they are working with federal authorities and the state’s election system vendor to ensure security.

“Secretary [John] Merrill participated in a conference call with several other secretaries of state regarding this issue,” said John Bennett, Secretary Merrill’s communications director. “During the call the Department of Homeland Security advised that they would be willing to have members of their team deployed to states to help set-up significant protections against hacking. Secretary Merrill was a part of bipartisan support requesting that the power to secure and properly maintain elections should remain in the hands of the states. This was followed by similar support for the complex systems that states have in place to protect our elections systems.

“We did, however, [complete] an internal review of our systems and have verified that no breaches have taken place at this time. We are also currently working with Election Systems & Software, our election systems vendor, to ensure that no breaches have occurred to their system.”

Statewide elections are scheduled to take place Tuesday, Nov. 8.

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2 years ago

Alabama House member: Lawmakers are already spending lottery money before it passes

Rep. Barry Moore (R-Enterprise)
Rep. Barry Moore (R-Enterprise)

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Alabama House members are already angling to earmark lottery funds for certain projects although the lottery has multiple hurdles left to clear before it even exists in the Yellowhammer State.

The Secretary of State’s office confirmed Thursday that the legislature had missed the deadline to pass a lottery bill that would put it up for a vote on the General Election ballot in November. Lawmakers continued to debate the issue, though, possibly setting up a Special Election ballot that would include a Constitutional Amendment bringing the lottery to Alabama for the first time. Secretary of State John Merrill estimated such an election would cost the state $6-8 million.

The current lottery bill being debated in the House would send the first $100 million of lottery revenue to Medicaid, then it gets a little murky after that. Members seemed to be operating under the assumption that 90 percent would go toward the General Fund Budget and 10 percent to the Education Budget. But an avalanche of amendments have been proposed, and one was approved to send to rural fire departments 1 percent of the 90 percent General Fund allocation.

The process sparked familiar criticism from conservative lawmakers who have characterized the lottery as little more than a way to grow the size of state government.

“We’re spending money we haven’t raised from a lottery we haven’t passed,” State Rep. Barry Moore (R-Enterprise), who opposes the lottery, said at the mic on the House floor.

Earmarks have been a longtime problem with Alabama’s budgeting process.

The state earmarks over 90 percent of its tax revenue, far more than any other state in the country, meaning that budgeters have very little flexibility when shortfalls emerge, as they have recently in the state’s exploding Medicaid program.

If the House passes a lottery bill that the Senate agrees to and the governor signs, a statewide vote of the people in a Special Election would determine whether Alabama would have a state sponsored lottery. If it clears all of those hurdles, it appears that whatever revenue it brings in will be spent long before it even enters state coffers.

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2 years ago

MASS CHAOS: Alabama lottery may have a shot to get on the ballot in November after all

Alabama Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh Yellowhammer Politics
Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Just one day after it appeared there was no way for a lottery vote to take place on the November ballot, pro-lottery lawmakers are now claiming they may have a shot at making it happen after all.

The governor and legislative leaders have been operating under the assumption that Wednesday, August 24, was the deadline for the legislature to authorize a constitutional amendment to appear on the General Election ballot on November 8th. Secretary of State John Merrill set that date as the deadline, which would give his office ample time to finalize and print ballots.

The deadline unexpectedly became a central part of the lottery debate on Tuesday, when anti-lottery House members used procedural measures to block a vote on the issue.

House rules stipulate that committee meetings must be advertised at least 24 hours in advance, unless four-fifths of the House votes to suspend the rules and allow a meeting to happen on shorter notice. Realizing that the committee meeting time on the lottery was not advertised in advance, a group of House members banded together and did not allow the rules to be suspended, thereby making it impossible for any proposal to pass by the Wednesday deadline.

On Wednesday, however, pro-lottery legislators for the first time called the deadline into question.

“From what I understand, it is [still] possible it could be on the November ballot,” said Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston), who has become the Senate GOP’s most outspoken gambling proponent.

“We’ve been operating under misinformation,” added Sen. Jim McClendon (R-Springville), another pro-lottery lawmaker.

The pro-lottery group is citing a section of the Alabama Code that says the Secretary of State “shall” accept additional constitutional amendment approved by the legislature up to the point that ballots have been printed. At this point ballots have not been printed.

Secretary of State Merrill, the state’s top elections official, told Yellowhammer his position has not shifted.

“The deadline we set has not changed,” he said. “We are where we have been all along. We have already prepared the timeline and presented it to everybody. Now they’re suddenly bringing up some section of the Alabama Code, but we’re still where we have been. What I’ve already shared is all I know.”

Mr. Merrill said he is scheduled to meet with the governor about the issue later today.

Even if the deadline is changed, the lottery’s fate in the House remains uncertain.

The House last week passed a bill that would allocate money from the state’s BP oil spill settlement to pay down debt, cover the shortfall in Medicaid, and fund infrastructure projects on the gulf coast.

The Senate has not yet considered the bill, but if it receives final passage, the stated reason for the current special session — to patch a hole in Medicaid funding — will have been accomplished.

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2 years ago

Reports flood in of deceased Alabamians and non-US citizens being invited to vote

Voting booths (Photo: Flickr)
Voting booths (Photo: Flickr)

The State of Alabama recently sent a letter to a Mobile woman who died in 1999, inviting her to register to vote in the upcoming November elections. The story was first reported by south Alabama Fox affiliate WALA earlier this week, and subsequently picked up by Yellowhammer News.

Since then, Yellowhammer has received numerous emails from readers saying that this was not an isolated incident, including the handful pasted below.

From a reader named Carolyn:

My mother passed away in 2006 and she received an Alabama Mail-in Voter Registration Form on Monday. I called the SOS division of elections and got the same story you featured about this problem.

I am sick and tired of feeling like my vote doesn’t count when voter fraud is able to wipe it out with one illegal vote.

I know the system isn’t perfect but there is no excuse for soliciting people to sign up using the driver’s license bureau records when they are not purged when a person dies.

This attempt to register voters is flawed, expensive and will no doubt result in voter fraud.

From a reader named Tammy:

Please spread the word to officials. They need a way to check someone’s citizenship. Just because someone has a license does not mean they can vote. My husband received an application to register to vote in the mail. He is a permanent resident alien NOT a US Citizen.

I wonder how many illegal’s or non citizens will take the opportunity and go on line and register anyway.

From a reader named Joyce:

I just read in one of your articles about the person who received a request for voter registration for a dead person. I also received the same letter sent to my husband, [name redacted], for a voter registration. He also passed away three years ago in 2013. I didn’t know if I should do anything about it or not.

From a reader named Clarence:

My wife died in 2011 but she recently received a mail-in voter registration form from the State of Alabama, just like the one you mentioned in your story. Just passing along word that it was not a one-time thing.

From a reader named Lilly:

I have a friend who is a legal alien–NOT an illegal alien–and we were laughing recently about the government inviting her to vote in our elections. Our own government asking people who aren’t allowed to vote to vote?! No wonder everyone believes the elections are rigged.

WALA reported Bob Grip brought the issue to the attention of Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill, who said his office is engaging in a large scale voter registration drive that relies on the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency’s Driver’s License database.

“My office is undertaking a project to identify a large number of Alabamians that are eligible but unregistered to vote,” Merrill explained. “This project utilizes our voter registration information and compares it against a database of Alabamians with a Driver’s License. This allows us to see anyone that would already had a license but may not have previously had the opportunity to register to vote. I apologize for any confusion that this may have caused for your viewer but if you would have them forward the name and address of the individual, we will make sure we identify her to the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency so they can update their records.”

During the 2011 Regular Legislative Session Governor Robert Bentley (R-Ala.) signed a voter ID law that went into full effect for the 2014 primary elections. Act 2011-673 requires an Alabama voter to have a specific type of photo identification at the polls in order to vote. Since that time, Democrats across the country have decried the law as “racist” and “hateful”.

The 2016 Democratic Party platform declares, “we will continue to fight against discriminatory voter identification laws, which disproportionately burden young voters, diverse communities, people of color, low income families, people with disabilities, the elderly, and women.”

The Party did, however, require delegates to the Democratic National Committee to show photo ID before they were allowed to vote.

In an October 2015 visit to Hoover, Hillary Clinton slammed Alabama Republicans for requiring proof of citizenship to vote and for shuttering driver’s license offices in the wake of state budget cuts. The Democratic presidential nominee insisted that both issues were examples of Republicans trying to return Alabama to its Jim Crow past.

RELATED: Bentley and Clinton spar over whether Alabama Republicans are racists

“We have to defend the most fundamental right in our democracy, the right to vote,” she said. “No one in this state, no one, should ever forget the history that enabled generations of people left out and left behind to finally be able to vote.”

Before that, Vice President Joe Biden chided supporters of voter ID laws in light of liberal defeat in the Supreme Court case of Shelby County v. Holder which stemmed from a legal challenge in Alabama. “These guys never go away,” Biden said. “Hatred never, never goes away. The zealotry of those who wish to limit the franchise cannot be smothered by reason.”

RELATED: Biden: There’s ‘hatred’ behind Alabama’s photo voter ID law

Shelby County, Ala. sued the U.S. Attorney General in 2011 claiming that portions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 were unconstitutional. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled by a 5-to-4 vote that the formula used to determine which areas were subjected to pre-clearance was unconstitutional, effectively gutting that portion of the law.

“Alabama has made tremendous progress over the past 50 years, and this decision by the U.S. Supreme Court recognizes that progress,” Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley said at the time. “We will not tolerate discrimination in Alabama.”

Despite calls of racism, Alabama’s implementation of the voter ID law does not seem to have suppressed turnout.

There are currently at least 10 different types of ID that are acceptable to use at the polls (including a driver’s license) and the Secretary of State’s office also offers free Alabama photo voter ID cards and free non-driver IDs for purposes of voting.

1
2 years ago

Roy Moore tops crowded potential field in first 2018 Alabama gubernatorial poll

Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore
Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore
Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore is weathering another round of attempts to have him removed from the bench, but he still enjoys the support of a majority of Alabama Republicans.

The Alabama Forestry Association, one of the state’s most influential conservative groups, commissioned a survey of 600 likely Republican primary voters and found that Moore’s sky-high name recognition makes him the GOP’s current top choice for governor in 2018 in what promises to be a crowded field.

If the 2018 Republican Primary were held today, here’s who GOP primary voters say they would support:

Chief Justice Roy Moore: 28%
Undecided: 24%
Attorney General Luther Strange: 19%
Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle: 9%
Congresswoman Martha Roby: 6%
Agriculture Commissioner John McMillan: 3%
Secretary of State John Merrill: 3%
Tim James: 3%
Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh: 2%
State Treasurer Young Boozer: 2%

If Republican primary voters’ first choice does not make the runoff, here’s who they say their second pick would be:

Undecided: 31%
Luther Strange: 23%
Roy Moore: 10%
Tim James: 7%
Young Boozer: 6%
Martha Roby: 6%
Tommy Battle: 6%
John McMillan: 5%
John Merrill: 4%
Del Marsh: 3%

Although Moore is currently Republicans’ top pick at 28%, he is the second choice of only 10% of GOP primary voters, suggesting he may have trouble making it to the 50%+1 threshold needed to secure his Party’s nomination. However, that appeared to be a problem for him in his last run for Chief Justice as well, and he managed to pull it off.

Attorney General Luther Strange, the second most well-known of the field that was polled, is the second choice of almost a quarter of GOP primary voters, indicating that he could be in a strong position if he were able to get into the runoff.

Other potential candidates have a lot of ground to make up when it comes to name recognition, but current Gov. Robert Bentley overcame a similar issue in his first run, proving that it’s possible.

One other interesting number from the survey shows just how short voters’ memories can be.

Conservative businessman Tim James, son of former Gov. Fob James, and a two-time gubernatorial candidate himself (2002 and 2010), is currently known by less than half of the GOP electorate.

The favorability of each candidate polled can be found below (in alphabetical order).

HUNTSVILLE MAYOR TOMMY BATTLE
Favorable: 22%
Unfavorable: 5%
Heard of – No Opinion: 13%
Never Heard of: 60%

STATE TREASURER YOUNG BOOZER
Favorable: 27%
Unfavorable: 9%
Heard of – No Opinion: 35%
Never Heard of: 30%

TIM JAMES
Favorable: 14%
Unfavorable: 12%
Heard of – No Opinion: 21%
Never Heard of: 53%

SENATE PRESIDENT PRO TEM DEL MARSH
Favorable: 20.1
Unfavorable: 13.8
Heard of – No Opinion: 25
Never Heard of: 41

AGRICULTURE COMMISSIONER JOHN MCMILLAN
Favorable: 24%
Unfavorable: 7%
Heard of – No Opinion: 31%
Never Heard of: 38%

SECRETARY OF STATE JOHN MERRILL
Favorable: 16%
Unfavorable: 7%
Heard of – No Opinion: 30%
Never Heard of: 47%

CHIEF JUSTICE ROY MOORE
Favorable: 58%
Unfavorable: 29%
Heard of – No Opinion: 11%
Never Heard of: 2%

CONGRESSWOMAN MARTHA ROBY
Favorable: 23%
Unfavorable: 9%
Heard of – No Opinion: 15%
Never Heard of: 53%

ATTORNEY GENERAL LUTHER STRANGE
Favorable: 44%
Unfavorable: 19%
Heard of – No Opinion: 30%
Never Heard of: 7%

1
2 years ago

State of Alabama invited a woman who died in 1999 to register to vote

(Photo: Flickr)
(Photo: Flickr)

MOBILE, Ala. — The State of Alabama recently sent a letter to a Mobile woman who died in 1999, inviting her to register to vote in the upcoming November elections.

“You are receiving this mailing because our records indicate that you MIGHT not be registered to vote,” the mailer read, according to local Fox affiliate WALA.

“The notice included a mail-in voter registration form and instructions to return it to her local Board of Registrars,” wrote Fox 10 anchor Bob Grip.

The deceased woman’s daughter alerted the local news to the mailer because she was concerned other recipients may attempt to use the form to commit voter fraud.

Mr. Grip brought the issue to the attention of Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill, who said his office is engaging in a large scale voter registration drive that relies on the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency’s Driver’s License database.

“My office is undertaking a project to identify a large number of Alabamians that are eligible but unregistered to vote,” Merrill explained. “This project utilizes our voter registration information and compares it against a database of Alabamians with a Driver’s License. This allows us to see anyone that would already had a license but may not have previously had the opportunity to register to vote. I apologize for any confusion that this may have caused for your viewer but if you would have them forward the name and address of the individual, we will make sure we identify her to the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency so they can update their records.”

During the 2011 Regular Legislative Session Governor Robert Bentley (R-Ala.) signed a voter ID law that went into full effect for the 2014 primary elections. Act 2011-673 requires an Alabama voter to have a specific type of photo identification at the polls in order to vote. Since that time, Democrats across the country have decried the law as “racist” and “hateful”.

The 2016 Democratic Party platform declares, “we will continue to fight against discriminatory voter identification laws, which disproportionately burden young voters, diverse communities, people of color, low income families, people with disabilities, the elderly, and women.”

The Party did, however, require delegates to the Democratic National Committee to show photo ID before they were allowed to vote.

In an October 2015 visit to Hoover, Hillary Clinton slammed Alabama Republicans for requiring proof of citizenship to vote and for shuttering driver’s license offices in the wake of state budget cuts. The Democratic presidential nominee insisted that both issues were examples of Republicans trying to return Alabama to its Jim Crow past.

RELATED: Bentley and Clinton spar over whether Alabama Republicans are racists

“We have to defend the most fundamental right in our democracy, the right to vote,” she said. “No one in this state, no one, should ever forget the history that enabled generations of people left out and left behind to finally be able to vote.”

Before that, Vice President Joe Biden chided supporters of voter ID laws in light of liberal defeat in the Supreme Court case of Shelby County v. Holder which stemmed from a legal challenge in Alabama. “These guys never go away,” Biden said. “Hatred never, never goes away. The zealotry of those who wish to limit the franchise cannot be smothered by reason.”

RELATED: Biden: There’s ‘hatred’ behind Alabama’s photo voter ID law

Shelby County, Ala. sued the U.S. Attorney General in 2011 claiming that portions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 were unconstitutional. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled by a 5-to-4 vote that the formula used to determine which areas were subjected to pre-clearance was unconstitutional, effectively gutting that portion of the law.

“Alabama has made tremendous progress over the past 50 years, and this decision by the U.S. Supreme Court recognizes that progress,” Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley said at the time. “We will not tolerate discrimination in Alabama.”

Despite calls of racism, Alabama’s implementation of the voter ID law does not seem to have suppressed turnout.

There are currently at least 10 different types of ID that are acceptable to use at the polls (including a driver’s license) and the Secretary of State’s office also offers free Alabama photo voter ID cards and free non-driver IDs for purposes of voting.

(h/t Fox 10)

1
3 years ago

United Nations goes on anti-Alabama tirade partially funded by American taxpayers

Alabama United Nations

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights released a statement Friday blasting the State of Alabama — and the United States more broadly — for its record on women’s and immigrants’ rights.

According to the UN, the organization sent a three-member delegation to Alabama, Oregon and Texas earlier this month at the invitation of the United States government.

The leader of the delegation was feminist college professor Frances Raday, Chair of the Israeli Association of Feminist and Gender Studies and Vice-Chair of the UN Human Rights Council Working Group on Discrimination Against Women.

“In its greatly appreciated invitation to our expert group, the United States opened the door to a frank interchange regarding both good practices and gaps in US women’s enjoyment of international human rights,” said Raday. “We acknowledge the United States’ commitment to liberty, so well represented by the Statue of Liberty which symbolizes both womanhood and freedom. Nevertheless, in global context, US women do not take their rightful place as citizens of the world’s leading economy, which has one of the highest rates of per capita income. In the US, women fall behind international standards as regards their public and political representation, their economic and social rights and their health and safety protections.”

Among the delegation’s specific criticisms of Alabama is the state’s photo voter ID law, which it claims is discriminatory toward women.

“Our group is concerned that changes in voter identification laws, such as those in Alabama, which increase bureaucratic requirements for voter identification, in particular problematic for women who change their name in marriage and reduce the number of voting centers, can make registration and voting less accessible for the poor, of whom a majority are women,” Raday said in a somewhat difficult-to-follow sentence.

The UN’s criticisms come just over a week after the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund filed a lawsuit in Federal court challenging Alabama’s photo voter ID law. The suit claims requiring voters to show photo ID disenfranchises over 250,000 Alabamians, many of them black and latino, in violation of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill rejected the suit offhand, saying photo voter I.D. is in no way a barrier to voting, much less discriminatory.

“We want to make it real easy to vote and real hard to cheat,” Secretary Merrill said in a statement. “As of today, there have been no credible reports of a lack of ability for someone to cast their vote because of this law.”

The UN delegation also bemoaned the state of “women’s reproductive rights” in Alabama, saying there are a lack of abortion providers and “many of the clinics work in conditions of constant threats, harassment and vandalising (sic), too often without any kind of protection measures by law enforcement officials.” Raday also said Alabama has “a history of severe violence against abortion providers.”

Raday concluded the UN delegation’s criticisms of Alabama by claiming the state discriminates against immigrations by not allowing them to enroll in Medicaid.

“According to various stakeholders we met… Alabama (does) not allow lawfully residing immigrants to enroll in Medicaid even after completion of the federal waiting period of five years,” she said. A spokesperson for Medicaid did not immediately return Yellowhammer’s request for comment. The UN group also criticized the United States a whole for not providing government healthcare to all of its citizens.

The United Nations’ criticisms of the United States are nothing new, but still may come as a surprise considering the US is by far the UN’s largest funder, contributing 22 percent of the organization’s total budget, the maximum allowed under its bylaws. The US also funds over 28 percent of the UN’s “peacekeeping budget,” which has over 80,000 troops deployed worldwide.

Alabama Congressman Mike Rogers (R-AL3) has been among the UN’s loudest critics, even sponsoring a bill that would end America’s participation in the organization or any group associated with it.

“The U.N. continues to prove it’s an inefficient bureaucracy and a complete waste of American tax dollars,” said Rogers. “Although the United States makes up almost a quarter of the U.N.’s annual budget, the U.N. has attempted a number of actions that attack our rights as U.S. citizens.”

Rogers specifically mentioned the UN’s climate agenda, its anti-Second Amendment policies and its history of anti-Israel stances.

“Why should the American taxpayer bankroll an international organization that works against America’s interests around the world?” asked Rogers. “The time is now to restore and protect American sovereignty and get out of the United Nations.”

1
3 years ago

Obama administration comes after Alabama with civil rights investigation

U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx (Photo: Flickr user nonorganical)
U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx (Photo: Flickr user nonorganical)
U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx (Photo: Flickr user nonorganical)

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration’s U.S. Department of Transportation on Wednesday announced it is launching an investigation into whether civil rights violations occurred when budget cuts resulted in the closure of 31 rural DMVs.

Alabama Governor Robert Bentley’s administration said, in an effort to inconvenience as few people as possible, the DMV closures were targeted at areas where the offices served the fewest number of citizens. Democrats have alleged the closures were targeted at areas of the state with the highest percentage of minority residents in an effort to disenfranchise voters.

U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said his agency is launching its investigation under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which requires them to ensure federal tax dollars are not being used in a discriminatory fashion when they reach state and local governments.

“Today, the U.S. Department of Transportation is making it clear that Title VI is not optional and that we will work to make sure all of its components are enforced,” said Foxx. “Driver License Offices offer essential services to the American people, including providing thousands in Alabama with a method of identification. It is critical that these services be free of discrimination, and serve the people of the state fairly and equally.”

Governor Bentley shot back, saying the investigation is politically motivated.

“Despite what the Obama Administration claims, there were no driver license offices closed in Alabama,” he said in a statement released to the press. “Despite facts to the contrary, opportunistic politicians such as Hillary Clinton have politicized an Alabama budgeting issue to serve their own agenda, going so far as to travel to our state for the sole purpose of political pandering. This USDOT investigation is nothing more than a weak attempt to embarrass the people of Alabama and exploit our state in the name of a political agenda. I am confident that the USDOT investigation will find no basis for the claims of discrimination. It is time for the Obama Administration and aspiring national politicians to listen to facts, stop wasting taxpayers’ dollars and put the political agendas away.”

The USDOT investigation comes less than a week after the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund on Wednesday filed a lawsuit in Federal court challenging Alabama’s photo voter I.D. law. The suit claims requiring voters to show photo I.D. is “discriminatory” and would disenfranchise over 250,000 Alabamians, many of them black and latino, in violation of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

“The State’s deliberate decision to enforce this discriminatory photo ID law, followed by the DMV office closures, has compelled us to take action,” said Sherrilyn Ifill, President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund. “It is appalling that sixty years after Rosa Parks’ courageous protest in Montgomery and fifty years after voting rights activists marched in Selma, the Alabama Legislature continues to pass laws that are designed to deprive people of color of their basic civil rights.”

Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill rejected the suit offhand, saying photo voter I.D. is in no way a barrier to voting, much less discriminatory.

“We want to make it real easy to vote and real hard to cheat,” Secretary Merrill said in a statement. “As of today, there have been no credible reports of a lack of ability for someone to cast their vote because of this law.”

Merrill, who is responsible for administering and overseeing the state’s elections, says there will still be multiple opportunities for people in every county to obtain an I.D. — including a free state-issued voter I.D. — prior to election day.

“All 67 counties in Alabama have a Board of Registrars that issue photo voter I.D. cards,” he said. “If for some reason those citizens are not able to make it to the Board of Registrars, we’ll bring our mobile I.D. van and crew to that county.” The van has already visited every county in the state at least once this year.

Drivers licenses are just one of the many forms of identification accepted at Alabama’s polling places. Other forms of acceptable I.D. include non-driver I.D., Alabama Photo Voter I.D. card, State Issued I.D., Federal Issued I.D., U.S. Passport, Employee I.D. from the Federal Government, State of Alabama, County, Municipality, Board or other entity of Alabama, Student or employee I.D. from a public of private college or university in the State of Alabama, Military I.D., or a Tribal I.D.

In spite of the wide variety of useable forms of identification and the state’s free voter I.D. offering, many Democrats have continued to criticize the photo voter I.D. law.

At a reception in honor of Black History Month last year, Vice President Joe Biden said he hopes Congress will “modernize” the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to counter the “hatred” behind voter ID laws in Alabama, North Carolina and Texas.

“These guys never go away,” Biden said of supporters of voter I.D. “Hatred never, never goes away. The zealotry of those who wish to limit the franchise cannot be smothered by reason.”

Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton said that “it’s a blast from the Jim Crow past” and Jesse Jackson claimed that “this new Jim Crow isn’t subtle.”

Hans A. von Spakovsky, the Election Law Reform Initiative and Senior Legal Fellow at The Heritage Foundation, dismisses such criticisms.

“It’s really a sign of how desperate critics of voter-ID laws are that they would raise such inflammatory, ridiculous claims,” he said. “Alabama’s new voter-ID law for both in-person and absentee voting went into effect last year. Despite the outcries that it would ‘suppress’ votes, there have been no problems or complaints that anyone has been unable to vote because of the new requirement. It’s been the same in all of the other states, such as Georgia and Indiana, that have implemented such ID laws. I’ve written numerous papers looking at turnout data in states after ID laws became effective — ID laws have no discernible effect on decreasing or preventing turnout.”


1
3 years ago

NAACP sues Alabama claiming the state’s photo voter I.D. law is ‘discriminatory’

(Photo: Flickr)
(Photo: Flickr)

The NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund on Wednesday filed a lawsuit in Federal court challenging Alabama’s photo voter I.D. law. The suit, which was filed on behalf of Greater Birmingham Ministries and the Alabama NAACP, claims requiring voters to show photo I.D. is “discriminatory” and would disenfranchise over 250,000 Alabamians, many of them black and latino, in violation of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

“The State’s deliberate decision to enforce this discriminatory photo ID law, followed by the DMV office closures, has compelled us to take action,” said Sherrilyn Ifill, President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund. “It is appalling that sixty years after Rosa Parks’ courageous protest in Montgomery and fifty years after voting rights activists marched in Selma, the Alabama Legislature continues to pass laws that are designed to deprive people of color of their basic civil rights.”

“Alabama’s legacy of discrimination against black and latino people means that people of color are much more likely to live in poverty than white people, and much less likely to possess photo IDs,” added Liliana Zaragoza, a litigation fellow at the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund.

As evidence for their claims, plaintiffs in the case detail the story of an 18-year-old high school student referred to as “G.A.,” who they say will not be able to vote because she does not have transportation and budget cuts forced the closure of the DMV closest to her home.

“G.A. does not own a car, nor has she ever driven one,” the complaint explains. “Her parents have access to vehicles, but both parents work full-time and are unable to drive G.A. to Sheffield during that ALEA office’s normal hours… [I]t would be unduly burdensome for G.A. or her parents to take time off from work or school to go to the ALEA offices in Sheffield or Franklin County during those offices’ limited hours of operation.”

Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill rejected the suit offhand, saying photo voter I.D. is in no way a barrier to voting, much less discriminatory.

“We want to make it real easy to vote and real hard to cheat,” Secretary Merrill said in a statement. “As of today, there have been no credible reports of a lack of ability for someone to cast their vote because of this law.”

Merrill, who is responsible for administering and overseeing the state’s elections, says there will still be multiple opportunities for people in every county to obtain an I.D. — including a free state-issued voter I.D. — prior to election day.

“All 67 counties in Alabama have a Board of Registrars that issue photo voter I.D. cards,” he said. “If for some reason those citizens are not able to make it to the Board of Registrars, we’ll bring our mobile I.D. van and crew to that county.” The van has already visited every county in the state at least once this year.

Drivers licenses are just one of the many forms of identification accepted at Alabama’s polling places. Other forms of acceptable I.D. include non-driver I.D., Alabama Photo Voter I.D. card, State Issued I.D., Federal Issued I.D., U.S. Passport, Employee I.D. from the Federal Government, State of Alabama, County, Municipality, Board or other entity of Alabama, Student or employee I.D. from a public of private college or university in the State of Alabama, Military I.D., or a Tribal I.D.

In spite of the wide variety of useable forms of identification and the state’s free voter I.D. offering, many Democrats have continued to criticize the photo voter I.D. law.

At a reception in honor of Black History Month last year, Vice President Joe Biden said he hopes Congress will “modernize” the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to counter the “hatred” behind voter ID laws in Alabama, North Carolina and Texas.

“These guys never go away,” Biden said of supporters of voter I.D. “Hatred never, never goes away. The zealotry of those who wish to limit the franchise cannot be smothered by reason.”

Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton said that “it’s a blast from the Jim Crow past” and Jesse Jackson claimed that “this new Jim Crow isn’t subtle.”

Hans A. von Spakovsky, the Election Law Reform Initiative and Senior Legal Fellow at The Heritage Foundation, dismisses such criticisms.

“It’s really a sign of how desperate critics of voter-ID laws are that they would raise such inflammatory, ridiculous claims,” he said. “Alabama’s new voter-ID law for both in-person and absentee voting went into effect last year. Despite the outcries that it would ‘suppress’ votes, there have been no problems or complaints that anyone has been unable to vote because of the new requirement. It’s been the same in all of the other states, such as Georgia and Indiana, that have implemented such ID laws. I’ve written numerous papers looking at turnout data in states after ID laws became effective — ID laws have no discernible effect on decreasing or preventing turnout.”

The NAACP’s lawsuit was filed in the Northern District of Alabama. Governor Robert Bentley said in a statement that he will be reviewing the suit.

“Voting rights are important to every citizen, and it is imperative that every Alabamian who is eligible to vote have the ability to vote,” he said. “A photo ID protects the process of voting and ensures fair elections are held.”


1
3 years ago

Trump set to return to Alabama for another massive campaign rally

Donald J. Trump (Photo: Gage Skidmore)
Republican presidential contender Donald J. Trump (Photo: Gage Skidmore)
Republican presidential contender Donald J. Trump (Photo: Gage Skidmore)

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Billionaire businessman and Republican presidential hopeful Donald J. Trump is coming back to Alabama, hoping to build on the momentum he gained after entertaining tens of thousands of supporters in Mobile earlier this year.


RELATED: Trumpapalooza: The night Alabama became the center of the political universe


Mr. Trump will hold a campaign rally at the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Center in downtown Birmingham the morning of Saturday, Nov. 21. Doors will open at 10 a.m. and the event will start at 11 a.m. The rally is free, but requires a ticket for entry. Registration is open now at Eventbrite.com.

Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill credited the so called SEC Primary with attracting Trump and other candidates to the state.

“We are excited to have Donald Trump bring his campaign to Birmingham,” said Merrill. “I am confident that Mr. Trump’s appearance will be welcomed with enthusiasm, just as it was in Mobile. We are very pleased with the way the SEC Primary has developed and what it means for our people to have personal interaction with these candidates. With the assistance and full support of the Alabama Legislature, one of the most significant things we have done in the Secretary of State’s Office is change the primary date to March 1. Since the March primary legislation passed, the top two Democratic candidates and eight of the top Republican candidates have made campaign stops in Alabama, which is unheard of for our state. As Secretary of State, I will continue to position Alabama and the South as a place where presidential candidates are willing to make an effort to visit and meet our remarkable people.”

Alabama has seen visits from former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, Dr. Ben Carson, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Senator Ted Cruz, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, Ohio Governor John Kasich, Senator Rand Paul, Senator Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. Senator Marco Rubio is scheduled to appear in Guntersville on December 1.


1
3 years ago

These are the politicians eyeing a run for Alabama’s highest offices in 2018

How will Alabama's 2018 electoral puzzle come together?
How will Alabama's 2018 electoral puzzle come together?
How will Alabama’s 2018 electoral puzzle come together?

The 2016 election cycle is in full swing, but outside of a potentially competitive congressional race in Alabama’s 2nd District, there’s not a lot of action in the Yellowhammer State this year. However, if you think it’s too early to start looking toward the impending electoral chaos of 2018… Well, you’re probably right. But make no mistake, Alabama’s most ambitious politicians are already jockeying for position.

Yellowhammer released a list of the “Top 20 potential 2018 Alabama gubernatorial candidates” earlier this year. It included a pretty good number of long shots and individuals who probably won’t actually end up running, and that list did not include any of the other statewide offices that the political climbers are keeping an eye on.

So let’s take a quick look at some of the politicians who are already eyeballing the state’s highest offices that will be up for grabs in 2018.

GOVERNOR

Slade Blackwell: The Mountain Brook senator strengthened his conservative bonafides this year by being a member of the “Gang of Nine,” the group of rock-ribbed senators who opposed every proposed tax increase. His extraordinarily successful business career places him a position to pump a substantial amount of his own money into the race, if he chose to do so. But he may not need to; he’s also a prolific fundraiser. The business community loves him, and his record as a fiscal conservative in the senate would help him make a strong case to grassroots conservatives as well. The only question is whether he’d pull the trigger on a statewide campaign with three young kids still working their way through school.

Young Boozer: The two-term state treasurer has a sharp business acumen and impresses with his creative thinking on complex fiscal issues. His career in banking, finance and investments has taken him from Citibank in New York and Crocker National Bank in Los Angeles, to Coral Petroleum in Houston and Colonial Bank in Montgomery. With Alabama’s budgets in perpetual disarray, Boozer could make a strong case that he’s got the background to lead the state toward a longterm solution. But will his style connect with Alabama’s more rural, populist conservatives?

Del Marsh: The Senate President Pro Tem has been a steady hand at the helm of the Alabama Senate since Republicans took control in 2010, but indications are that this will be his last term in the Senate, whether he runs statewide or not. From a leadership and management standpoint, Marsh is head and shoulders above most of his colleagues. For that reason, he is one of the few individuals who will have major players in the state’s business community asking him to run. It usually works the other way around.

John McMillan: The Agriculture Commissioner started his career in public service in 1969 on the Baldwin County Commission. Almost 50 years later, he may look around as the gubernatorial field begins to emerge in 2017 and say to himself, “Why the heck not?” Agriculture is Alabama’s largest industry, but the current likely field does not include a candidate the state’s farmers would look at and immediately say, “He’s one of us.” McMillan is a sixth generation farmer, a past Commissioner of the Alabama Department of Conservation & Natural Resources, past executive VP of the Alabama Forestry Association, and a two-term Ag Commish. He’s built up a statewide grassroots network over the years, which could come in handy if he decides he’d like to take a crack at the state’s top job.

John Merrill: The first-term Secretary of State is a relentless campaigner who has probably been mapping his course to the governor’s mansion since he beat “The Machine” to become University of Alabama SGA President in 1986. He is a political animal whose relentless campaigning led to him burning through several sets of tires on his personal vehicle during the last election cycle. He is a resident of Tuscaloosa, a town that has essentially become the hub of political power in Alabama, with the sitting governor, a U.S. senator and the State House Budget Chairman all hailing from Title Town. Merrill’s gunning to be next.

Greg Reed: The Alabama Senate Majority Leader has quickly risen through the ranks of the Republican caucus after first being elected just five short years ago. No one doubts that he is eyeing another move up. However, as tempting as it might be to jump into the gubernatorial fray, he is so well positioned to succeed Marsh as Pro Tem, it may not make sense for him to risk it. His calculus probably goes something like this: Do I pursue the 15 percent chance of emerging from a crowded field to become governor, or do I stay on my current track and have a 95 percent chance of rising to become one of the state’s two most powerful legislators?

Martha Roby: The 2nd Congressional District representative has managed to move up the ladder in Washington fairly quickly, landing a coveted seat on the Appropriations Committee. She has proven herself to be an able defender of the District’s large military and farming communities, but has taken some shots from grassroots conservatives for not bucking congressional leadership on tough votes. The Montgomery resident with young children undoubtedly sees the appeal of not having to travel to D.C. during the week, but if she wins re-election to a fourth term in Congress, would she give up a relatively safe seat and jump into the mass chaos of a gubernatorial run?

Luther Strange: The Attorney General is almost certainly running for governor. He has already met with at least one potential campaign consultant and has signaled to some close allies that he plans to run. It is probably not the job he really wants — he’s had his eye on the U.S. Senate for a long time. But with Senators Shelby and Sessions both still going strong, the prospect of suddenly being out of public office is a non-starter for Strange. He would likely start as a favorite to make the runoff in a crowded field, by virtue of the fact that he has already run statewide three times (lost a bid for Lt. Governor, won two for AG), so the voters know “Big” Luther’s name.

Wealthy guy no one is thinking about: Never forget this guy. He’s out there. He can self-fund. And he can throw a kink in even the best-laid plans.

LT. GOVERNOR


Rusty Glover: The low-key and well-liked state senator from south Alabama has already gotten word out around Montgomery that he plans to run statewide in 2018. Democrats stripped much of the power from the Lt. Governor’s office in the late ’90s, but the fact remains that the Senate’s presiding officer is a mere heartbeat away from the top job. Glover is a retired school teacher who’s successfully ran for both the House and Senate. We’ll see if he adds Lt. Governor to that list.

Mary Scott Hunter: The state school board representative from north Alabama has made inroads with some key players in the business community as the board’s foremost advocate of Common Core State Standards. But that could hurt with grassroots conservatives who’ve labeled the standards a big business and big government takeover of public education. Hunter’s résumé is bolstered by a military record that includes stints in the Air Force, Reserves and the Alabama Air National Guard. Her dad is Scott Hunter, former University of Alabama and NFL championship quarterback, which never hurts in football-crazed Alabama.

ATTORNEY GENERAL

Steve Marshall: The Marshall County District Attorney has expressed interest in a statewide run, but would face an uphill battle against other potential candidates who already have a built-in fundraising and political operation. Marshall became a Republican in 2011 after being elected in 2004 and 2010 as a Democrat. He is a past president of the Alabama District Attorney’s Association, so he has presumably built relationships around the state that would be beneficial if he jumps in the race for AG.

Arthur Orr: The Senate Budget Chairman has had the unenviable task of crafting the state’s beleaguered General Fund for the past five years. However, the scuttlebutt around Montgomery is that he and Senate Education Budget Chairman Trip Pittman will switch positions ahead of the next legislative session, placing Orr atop the state’s largest pot of money. Speaking of money, Orr is a fundraising dynamo. And being a budget chairman all but ensures he would receive big checks out of Montgomery, in addition to significant support out of his north Alabama Senate District, if he decides to run statewide. He is currently Vice President and General Counsel for Cook’s Pest Control and his legal background also includes a stint at a prominent Decatur law firm.

Cam Ward: The Shelby County State Senator was the odds-on favorite to be the next attorney general before a DUI arrest and a stint in rehab earlier this year. It is hard to imagine voters electing someone who had that big of a lapse in judgement to be their state’s top law enforcement officer and lawyer, but crazier things have happened. Ward maintains the support of many in Montgomery and in his district. He doesn’t appear to have even considered taken a step back from politics, but is weighing whether he should resurface for a statewide run or batten down the hatches and try to return to the Senate.

SENATE PRESIDENT PRO TEM

This is not a statewide elected office, but it is worth considering for a couple of reasons. Number one, it is among the state’s most powerful positions, alongside governor and speaker of the house. Secondly, it is such an attractive position that it could influence who ends up running for the posts mentioned above.

Consider this:

If current Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh suddenly switches directions and decides to serve another four year term, that could compel Sen. Greg Reed to take a more serious look at governor. If Marsh leaves, Reed is almost certainly going to be his successor, which likely bumps him out of the governor’s race. But if Marsh leaves the senate and Reed runs for governor, the race for pro tem is wide open.

It could lead Sen. Ward to abandon his attorney general ambitions and try to rally support among his colleagues to give him the job. That, in turn, would give Sen. Orr — who may have at one point wanted to be pro tem himself — an even clearer path to AG. It could also open up an opportunity for a young leader like Sen. Clay Scofield to rise quickly. The scenarios are almost endless, but they all hinge on senators Marsh and Reed.


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3 years ago

Bentley and Clinton spar over whether Alabama Republicans are racists

Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

HOOVER, Ala. — Speaking to the predominantly black Alabama Democratic Conference on Friday, Hillary Clinton slammed Alabama Republicans for requiring proof of citizenship to vote and for shuttering driver’s license offices in the wake of state budget cuts. The Democratic presidential frontrunner insisted that both issues were examples of Republicans trying to return Alabama to its “Jim Crow past.”

“This is wrong,” Clinton said. “Fifty years after Rosa Parks sat and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. marched and John Lewis bled, it is hard to believe we are back having this same debate about whether or not every American gets a chance to vote and exercise his rights.

“We have to defend the most fundamental right in our democracy, the right to vote,” she continued. “No one in this state, no one, should ever forget the history that enabled generations of people left out and left behind to finally be able to vote.”

Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley pushed back against Clinton’s claims, suggesting the former secretary of state is promoting a false racial narrative in an effort to advance her personal political agenda.

“It seems Mrs. Clinton isn’t as well versed in Alabama’s budgeting process as she is in exploiting a situation for her personal political gain,” Bentley said. “If she were, she would know the closure of 31 Alabama Driver’s License offices is based on a shortfall in funds appropriated by the state Legislature to the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency. To claim this decision is based on race is absolutely not true. Suggesting otherwise should be considered an effort to promote a political agenda, an area where Mrs. Clinton has often clearly demonstrated her expertise.”

Alabama’s photo voter ID law, which requires voters to present any one of fifteen forms of valid identification, went into effect in 2014.

Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill has assured voters his office will work tirelessly to provide free voter IDs across the state, with a special focus on those counties now without a satellite license office.

“The closure of 31 DMV offices will not leave citizens without a place to receive the required I.D. card to vote,” said Secretary Merrill. “All 67 counties in Alabama have a Board of Registrars that issue photo voter I.D. cards. If for some reason those citizens are not able to make it to the Board of Registrars, we’ll bring our mobile I.D. van and crew to that county. By October 31 our office will have brought the mobile I.D. van to every county in Alabama at least once.”

The state government’s efforts have not, however, stopped Democrats both inside and outside of Alabama from seizing the opportunity to make a political statement.

U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell, Alabama’s lone Democratic congressional representative, even called on the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the Bentley administration’s decision to shutter rural DMVs.

“My office sent a letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch calling for a full, and thorough investigation into the decision to close 31 driver’s license offices across Alabama,” Sewell said last week. “This ill-conceived decision left 8 out of the 14 counties in my district – which is the only majority minority district in the state – without a Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to issue an Alabama driver’s license. The real issue here is about access. Closing these license offices will severely limit access to the most popular form of photo identification used in voting – a state issued driver’s license.”

Jesse Jackson also flew into the state and called Alabama “disgraceful.”

Gov. Bentley dismissed the criticism and said Mrs. Clinton in particular should focus on issues she would actually have to deal with if she became President.

“Alabama will continue to work toward solutions to solve our budget shortfalls,” he said. “Meanwhile Mrs. Clinton can work to solve our country’s $18 Trillion deficit, in the unfortunate event she is elected President.”

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3 years ago

The ‘SEC Primary’ just got literal: Jeb Bush to attend Alabama vs. LSU football game

Former Florida Governor and presidential candidate Jeb Bush
Former Florida Governor and presidential candidate Jeb Bush
Former Florida Governor and presidential candidate Jeb Bush

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — The “SEC Primary” just got literal. Republican Presidential candidate Jeb Bush is making a campaign stop in Tuscaloosa on Saturday, November 7th, for the Alabama vs. LSU football game.

Bush will attend the Alabama vs. LSU football game at Bryant-Denny Stadium on Saturday, November 7 as part of four Southeastern Conference game day visits, called “SEC Tailgating with Jeb.” According to Jeb Bush’s 2016 campaign website, he is “looking forward to competing in the SEC primary and bringing some fun to the process.”

Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill officially confirmed Bush’s campaign stop Tuesday.

“We are excited to have Governor Bush back in our state! Seven of the top ten Republican candidates have made campaign stops in Alabama, which is unprecedented for our state,” said Secretary of State John Merrill.

This surge in visits from presidential candidates is believed to be a response to the SEC Primary, championed by Alabama’s Secretary of State John Merrill. The SEC Primary is an effort to maneuver Alabama and the South into a place of relevance in the nominating process, and with notable visits from Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee and now Jeb Bush, Merrill believes that these campaign stops are “proof the SEC Primary is working.”

“When this many Presidential candidates are choosing to visit and re-visit Alabama, it is proof the SEC Primary is working. The main goal of this effort is to create an environment that forces candidates to appeal to an even larger and more complete constituency than they currently do, and I am proud to see our state receiving the attention it deserves,” said Merrill.

“It is so important that Alabamians have the opportunity to interact with all candidates in order to learn who best reflects their views. As Secretary of State, I will continue to position Alabama and the South as a place where Presidential candidates are willing to make an effort to visit and meet our remarkable people.”

Additional details on Governor Jeb Bush’s visit can be found at jeb2016.com.


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3 years ago

Alabama just took the lead on ensuring military voting rights, here’s how

An instructor approaches a Black Hawk helicopter on Fort Rucker (Photo: Fort Rucker Flickr photostream)
An instructor approaches a Black Hawk helicopter on Fort Rucker (Photo: Fort Rucker Flickr photostream)
An instructor approaches a Black Hawk helicopter on Fort Rucker (Photo: Fort Rucker Flickr photostream)

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — For the first time ever this week, a member of the U.S. armed services — an Alabamian — voted electronically while deployed abroad.

Alabama is the first state in the country to implement fully electronic voting for service members stationed overseas. Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill says the system is rolling out at the county level, and he hopes all 67 Alabama counties will be up and running by the presidential primary March 1, 2016.

Alabama National Guard Maj. Chris Theilacker told WSFA he and other Alabamians deployed around the globe are excited about the more streamlined process to vote.

“It doesn’t seem like a lot of trouble, but taking the time out to request that ballot, wait for it to get there, mail may or may not ever get to you when you are in an overseas environment,” Theilacker said. “I go out everyday to make sure our citizens have the right to vote, so by the state and the city providing access to voting no matter where in the world we are, that says a lot about their commitment.”

Alabama Rep. Barry Moore (R-Enterprise), a military veteran who was instrumental in passing a bill setting up the new system, told Yellowhammer he hopes it will make life easier for Alabamians who are deployed serving their country.

“As chairman of the House Committee on Military and Veterans, I am proud Alabama is leading the way on this important issue,” he said. “Americans’ voting rights are sacred. Nothing could be more important than ensuring that the men and women who are protecting our freedoms abroad have a voice in our political process. That is what this law does.”

Secretary Merrill concurred.

“Every military serviceman or woman who is interested in voting now has the opportunity to receive their ballot electronically, to vote electronically, and have their ballot returned electronically,” he concluded. “They’ll have their vote cast and counted the same way they would if they were at their home with their family.”


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3 years ago

Hillary Clinton, Democrats level racism charges against Alabama for closing Driver License offices

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (Video screenshot)

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (Video screenshot)
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (Video screenshot)

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Democratic presidential candidate and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton slammed the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency’s (ALEA) decision to handle budget cuts by closing 31 part-time satellite Driver License offices as “a blast from the Jim Crow past.”

The move by ALEA has invited national criticism, with Democrats and the media, in particular, calling it a large step backward in a state with a troublesome racial history such as Alabama’s.

The controversy is aggravated by Alabama’s Voter ID law, first implemented in 2014, which requires voters present one of fifteen forms of valid identification.

Though Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill assured voters his office would work relentlessly to provide free non-driver voter IDs across the state, with a special focus on those counties now without a satellite license office, Clinton and many others have seized the situation to make a political statement.

“I strongly oppose Alabama’s decision to close driver’s license offices across the state, especially in counties that have a significant majority of African-Americans,” said Clinton. “Just a few years ago, Alabama passed a law requiring citizens to have a photo ID to vote. Now they’re shutting down places where people get those photo IDs. This is only going to make it harder for people to vote. It’s a blast from the Jim Crow past.”

Alabama Congresswoman Terri Sewell (D-AL7), the only Democratic member of the state’s congressional delegation, who has endorsed Clinton, also blasted the move, calling on the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the decision.

“My office sent a letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch calling for a full, and thorough investigation into the decision to close 31 driver’s license offices across Alabama,” said Sewell in a statement released Monday morning. “This ill-conceived decision left 8 out of the 14 counties in my district – which is the only majority minority district in the state – without a Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to issue an Alabama driver’s license.

“The real issue here is about access. Closing these license offices will severely limit access to the most popular form of photo identification used in voting – a state issued driver’s license.”

ALEA Director Spencer Collier rejects the idea that the decision had any political or racial undertones, stating that it was simply the solution to the budget that impacted the fewest number of people.

The State Legislature’s black caucus has been “the strongest supporters of ALEA and what we’re trying to do,” said Collier. “I can assure you there’s nothing political in this. If that was the case, those are the places I would want to keep open.”

“In July, I announced several advancements that will help the Driver License issuance process, including online scheduling, online driver license renewals and duplicates, self-serve kiosks, digital licensing for smart phones, and statewide equipment upgrades. Since making that announcement, we have had over 40,000 transactions online,” Collier said in a statement last week. “The impact of the changes due to the budget cuts will be lessened because of the implementation of these technology-based services, including online renewals.”

The 31 offices closed, Collier added, processed only 5 percent of Alabama’s 1.2 million drivers licenses every year.

Regardless of the implications of Clinton’s weighing in on the subject and Sewell’s plea to Attorney General Loretta Lynch, there is some question whether the complete closure of the offices is legal, given the language of the budget law Governor Bentley signed in September, which explicitly prohibits the Alabama Law Enforcement Association from closing any drivers license offices that were open as of October 1st, 2014, and that any reductions in force focus on areas that don’t directly serve the public.

The Alabama Supreme Court declined Governor Bentley’s request for the judicial branch to weigh in on whether or not the law’s directive usurped the executive branch’s authority.

In addition to Drivers Licenses the following, unexpired, unrevoked forms of identification are acceptable as well:

Nondriver ID, Alabama Photo Voter ID card, State Issued ID, Federal Issued ID, US Passport, Employee ID from the Federal Government, State of Alabama, County, Municipality, Board or other entity of Alabama, Student or employee ID from a public of private college or university in the State of Alabama, Military ID, or a Tribal ID.


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3 years ago

Alabama Secretary of State assures free Voter IDs will be available in all counties

(
Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill
Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — When the announcement was made Wednesday that satellite drivers license office across the state would be closed, there was immediate speculation that it would cause disenfranchisement of voters in some of Alabama’s poorest counties, and particularly in those where minorities make up a large proportion of the population.

Even Hillary Clinton, who will visit the Yellowhammer State later this month joined the conversation, calling the closure of the 31 drivers license offices “Yet another reason we need to restore key portions of the Voting Rights Act.”

Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill, who is responsible for administering and overseeing elections, says there will still be multiple opportunities for people in every county to obtain an I.D. valid at the polling booth.

“The closure of 31 DMV offices will not leave citizens without a place to receive the required I.D. card to vote,” said Secretary Merrill. “All 67 counties in Alabama have a Board of Registrars that issue photo voter I.D. cards. If for some reason those citizens are not able to make it to the Board of Registrars, we’ll bring our mobile I.D. van and crew to that county. By October 31 our office will have brought the mobile I.D. van to every county in Alabama at least once.

“One of the most fundamental rights we as Americans are afforded is our right to vote,” he continued. “As Alabama’s Secretary of State and Chief Elections Official, I will do everything within my power to ensure every Alabamian is able to exercise their right to vote.”

There is some question whether the complete closure of the offices is legal, given the language of the budget law Governor Bentley signed in September, which explicitly prohibits the Alabama Law Enforcement Association from closing any drivers license offices that were open as of October 1st, 2014, and that any reductions in force focus on areas that don’t directly serve the public.

The Alabama Supreme Court declined Governor Bentley’s request for the judicial branch to weigh in on whether or not the law’s directive usurped the executive branch’s authority.

Regardless of who ultimately wins this tussle between the legislative and executive branches, Merrill says the mobile voter I.D. unit will be visiting many of the counties effected, and possibly even more throughout the month of October.

“In October, the mobile unit will be in Blount, Cherokee, Conecuh, Covington, Escambia, Henry, Houston, Jefferson, Lee, Mobile, Pike, and Washington Counties,” the Secretary’s office said in a press release Friday morning. “For specific information on the location of the mobile unit in your county, visit AlabamaPhotoVoterID.com.”

Additionally, groups wishing to host Voter I.D. drives in their communities can call the Secretary of State’s office at 334-353-7854 to schedule.

Drivers Licenses are just one of the many forms of identification accepted at Alabama’s polling places.

The following, unexpired, unrevoked forms are acceptable as well:

Nondriver ID, Alabama Photo Voter ID card, State Issued ID, Federal Issued ID, US Passport, Employee ID from the Federal Government, State of Alabama, County, Municipality, Board or other entity of Alabama, Student or employee ID from a public of private college or university in the State of Alabama, Military ID, or a Tribal ID.


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3 years ago

Alabamians celebrate National Voter Registration Day

(Photo: Flickr)
(Photo: Flickr)

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill joined members of the National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS) Tuesday in declaring September 2015 “National Voter Registration Month” as well as September 22 National Voter Registration Day.

NASS members explained that they established September 22 as National Voter Registration Day as a “non-partisan means of encouraging voter participation and increasing awareness about state requirements and deadlines for voting.”

To “celebrate” National Voter Registration Day, Merrill implores Alabamians to register to vote, ensure their voter registration is up to date, and sign up for election reminders and updates. In addition, Merrill and other members of the NASS encourage participants in National Voter Registration Day to share their experiences online.

“To help promote National Voter Registration Day, Secretaries of State across the nation are challenging Americans to get registered to vote by leveraging the power of social media and viral video,” said Merrill.

National Voter Registration Day is using the hashtag #CelebrateNVRD on social media outlets to help spread the word and get more people to register to vote.

“Our goal is to encourage involvement within the electoral process,” Merrill concluded. “We want every person who is eligible to vote, as a citizen of Alabama, to have the privilege to do so.”

Another recent effort to encourage voter registration in Alabama includes Merrill recruiting the head football coaches of Alabama and Auburn to star in informational videos. The videos will appear on jumbotrons in Bryant-Denny and Jordan-Hare Stadiums throughout the season to spread the importance of voter registration.

Congresswoman Terri Sewell (D-AL7)  also celebrated the day by encouraging younger voters to get registered for the first time.

“Our votes are our voice, and every eligible voter should make his or her voice heard,” said Sewell in a press release Tuesday. “It’s important that we encourage and engage younger voters. Historically, young adults ages 18-24 are less likely to vote as compared to older adults. Voting is one of our most fundamental rights. We cannot take it for granted.

“National Voter Registration Day encourages high school seniors to register to vote, and to become active and engaged citizens within their communities. As a daughter of Selma, I cannot forget the sacrifices that were made by the brave men and women who laid their lives on the line so that all Americans can enjoy their Constitutionally-guaranteed right to vote.

“We must honor that legacy by voting in each and every election – local, state, and federal. I am calling on our young people to register to vote. You are the future, and we need to hear your voices.”

To learn more about registering to vote or National Voter Registration Day, please visit www.nationalvoterregistrationday.org.


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