Alabama lawmakers are debating a bill that would make it more challenging to vote absentee.
By a vote of 7 to 3, a state senate committee on Wednesday approved SB1. A Republican state senator from Cullman, Garlan Gudger, is the bill’s sponsor.
If approved, the legislation will impose criminal penalties for infractions and make it unlawful to order, request, pre-fill, procure, or send an application for an absentee ballot. Applicants will also be required to submit their applications.
Individuals who breach the measure may face misdemeanor charges, and those who obtain compensation for their actions may be convicted of a class C felony. If someone else “knowingly” commits this, they risk a class C felony prosecution and up to 10 years in jail.
A class B felony accusation, carrying a maximum 20-year jail sentence, may be brought against anyone who intentionally pays a third party to submit their absentee ballot.
If voters want assistance, they can get it from a member of their family, a household member, the Secretary of State’s office, a county judge, or an elections manager.
If the voter is blind, crippled, or unable to read or write, there are more exemptions. Also unaffected by the bill are military personnel stationed abroad.
Reporters were informed by Mr. Gudger that “the bottom line is that it is illegal for someone to pay or receive money when they’re collecting ballots or putting in applications,” as reported by the Alabama Reflector. “This ballot is not this one. The ballot application is this.
The American Civil Liberties Union has expressed strong opposition to the proposed legislation.
“This bill prevents several organizations that provide services to the elderly, students, or homebound from doing their work to ensure and expand access to the ballot,” the civil rights organization stated in a statement.
“The most vulnerable citizens of Alabama are less likely to participate when assistance that grants others access to the voting process is criminalized.”
If the Republican governor of Alabama, Kay Ivey, signs the bill into law, it will take immediate effect. This represents the most recent action taken by Republicans to limit voting rights.
Brennan Center, a group that monitors legislation, reports that last year at least 32 states presented laws to restrict voting by limiting how voters might register, remain on the voter registers, or cast ballots in comparison to current state law.