The people's voice of reason

Coalition of groups sue to block state's ban on ballot harvesting

On Thursday, Alabama Secretary of State Allen (R) commented in response to a lawsuit filed by the NAACP and other groups challenging Alabama's legislation recently passed to ban ballot harvesting.

Allen said that he stands by his previous statements supporting the legislation, SB1.

"I am dedicated to ensuring fair, secure, and transparent elections. SB1 provides Alabama voters with strong protection against activists who profit from the absentee elections process," said Allen. "I stand firm in my support of SB1 because now, under Alabama law, Alabama votes are not for sale."

Alabama Republican Party Chairman John Wahl supports SB1 becoming law.

"Securing and maintaining the integrity of the electoral process is of the utmost importance to the Alabama Republican Party," said Wahl after Gov, Ivey signed the legislation. "No one's vote should ever be stolen or usurped by illegal ballot harvesting, and SB1 is a major step forward in safeguarding our elections. I would like to thank Governor Ivey, who made this a priority in her State of the State address, Secretary of State Wes Allen, bill sponsors Senator Garlan Gudger and Representative Jamie Kiel, and the members of the Alabama Legislature for their work to swiftly pass this commonsense measure into law."

The lawsuit that was filed in federal court litigation in the Northern District of Alabama named Secretary Allen as a defendant in the case as well as Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall (R) and all of Alabama's 42 District Attorneys.

The plaintiffs claim that the law targets Black voters, elderly voters, incarcerated voters, voters with disabilities, and low-literacy voters by preventing nongovernmental organizations from paying people to go and "assisting" voters with their absentee ballots.

The plaintiffs include: the Alabama State Conference of the NAACP (Alabama NAACP), Greater Birmingham Ministries (GBM), League of Women Voters of Alabama (LWVAL), and Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program (ADAP). The plaintiffs are represented by Campaign Legal Center (CLC), the Legal Defense Fund (LDF), the Montgomery based Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), the American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama (ACLU-AL), and the Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program (ADAP).

Benard Simelton is the president of the Alabama State Conference of the NAACP.

"SB1 takes Alabama backwards as it violates the law, restricts our basic Constitutional Amendment rights, obliterates freedom of speech," said Simelton. "It marginalizes voters' access to the ballot box."

Scott Douglas is the executive director of Greater Birmingham Ministries.

"SB1 represents the latest assault on Alabama voters who simply want their voices heard and their choices counted regardless of differing abilities, health status and unpredictable work schedules that require their voter participation be by absentee ballot and often with the support of friends, family, and civic organizations," said Douglas. "There is no 'voter integrity' in penalizing those who assist those who must vote absentee, only voter suppression."

Kathy Jones is the president of the League of Women Voters of Alabama.

"Voters who vote by absentee ballot have the right to access the ballot fairly and equitably," said Jones. "Many Alabama voters with disabilities rely on the help of neighbors, caregivers, or voter services organizations to successfully cast their absentee ballots. The League of Women Voters of Alabama will continue to fight unjust laws like SB1 because our state should be making it easier for people to vote, not building barriers to suppress the vote."

Celina Stewart is the chief counsel at the League of Women Voters of the United States.

"SB1 is part of a concerning trend of anti-voter state legislatures restricting equal access to the ballot for voters with disabilities," said Stewart. "These laws specifically target the individuals and organizations that voters with disabilities depend on to access, complete, and cast an absentee ballot. The League of Women Voters is actively challenging these laws and is committed to fighting voter suppression nationwide."

William Van Der Pol, Jr. is the senior trial counsel for the Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program.

"For many voters with disabilities, absentee voting may be the only practical option to be heard and have their voices counted," said Van Der Pol. "SB1 poses additional barriers to this critical right that are neither necessary nor legal."

Danielle Lang is the senior director of voting rights at Campaign Legal Center.

"SB 1 is an egregious attack on Alabama's voters and those working tirelessly to help folks access our democracy," said Lang. "This law takes us backwards and attacks a fundamental aspect of our sacred freedom of speech - violating the Constitution and hurting Alabamians who rely on nonpartisan, good-government groups to help make their voices heard at the ballot box. We look forward to fighting alongside our partners against this extreme anti-voter law."

Alison Mollman is the legal director of the ACLU of Alabama.

"Rather than helping Alabamians exercise their right to vote, lawmakers passed SB1 to criminalize them," said Mollman. "This extreme and unnecessary law makes it a Class B felony for a person or organization to assist someone with their absentee ballot application. In Alabama, other Class B felony offenses include manslaughter, statutory rape, and first-degree theft of property. SB1 is unconstitutional and the ACLU of Alabama is proud to stand alongside our clients to ensure that their constitutional rights are protected."

Anuja Thatte is the assistant counsel at the Legal Defense Fund.

"SB1 is a cruel manifestation of the rapid, unceasing attacks on the tenets of our democracy that have unfolded across the country," said Thatte. "The criminalization of those who assist voters and help strengthen our political process is unpatriotic and undermines our nation's promise of a multi-ethnic, multi-racial, inclusive democracy. LDF is proud to join our clients and partners to continue the fight to protect the fundamental right to vote – the people of Alabama and the United States deserve no less."

Jess Unger is the senior staff attorney for voting rights at the Southern Poverty Law Center.

"The march for voting rights started in Alabama and continues today as we face one of the most restrictive bills this state has seen in recent memory," said Unger. "Together, with our partners and clients, we will protect the fundamental right to vote and - no matter what barriers are put in place - to ensure every voice in Alabama is heard."

The lawsuit claims that SB 1 violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution, the Voting Rights Act, and the Help America Vote Act of 2002.

Republicans suspects that left leaning ballot collecting organizations played a significant part in President Joseph R. Biden's victory in 2020 in a number of swing states, including Georgia, Arizona, Pennsylvania, Nevada, and Michigan.

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