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AL faces battle at ballot box; groups look to federal laws for protection

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Monday, May 6, 2024   

Alabama has long been at the forefront of voting rights issues in the United States and despite some progress, advocates said residents continue to face barriers at the ballot box.

In a recent discussion held in Montgomery, the Center for American Progress brought together voting rights experts to shed light on the ongoing struggle against voter suppression in the state.

Kathy Jones, president of the League of Women Voters-Alabama, was on the panel and highlighted ongoing efforts hindering equitable access.

"Just this past year, we've had Wes Allen, and his office has eliminated the phone app for voter registration and being able to check your polling places," Jones pointed out. "Which is a real hardship for people who rely on their phones to be able to do the business that they need to do if they need to register to vote."

The latest way Jones noted ballot access is being blocked is the recent passage of a law criminalizing assistance with absentee ballot applications. Supporters said they believe the measure will prevent ballot harvesting.

She added other ways of restricting access to the ballot box include regulating early voting, voting by mail, voter registration and voter-list maintenance. Other laws bar thousands of persons who have served felony convictions from regaining the right to vote.

JaTaune Bosby Gilchrist, executive director of the ACLU of Alabama, said in response to the challenges, federal laws being proposed would bolster voting rights across the country. One of them is the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.

"The John Lewis Voting Rights Act would essentially allow us a level of equitability across the board from, as well as the Freedom to Vote Act, making voting a holiday, ensuring early voting," Bosby Gilchrist emphasized. "Alabama is one of three states without early voting, including Mississippi and New Hampshire."

The Freedom to Vote Act would help expand voter registration, limit removing voter from voter rolls and even outlines criteria to prevent gerrymandering. Advocates also see engaging young voters and increasing overall voter turnout as ways to combat measures hindering access.

Support for this reporting was provided by The Carnegie Corporation of New York.

Disclosure: Alabama Possible contributes to our fund for reporting on Civic Engagement, Education, Poverty Issues, Youth Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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