House debates, passes election bills

House debates, passes election bills

By CAROLINE BECK, Alabama Daily News

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – The Alabama House of Representatives debated and voted on bills dealing with election and voting laws Tuesday as the 2021 Regular Session reached its midway point.

A bill that would allow certain individuals to omit their personal identifying information from the state’s voter registration list passed the House.

House Bill 123 from Rep. David Faulkner, R-Homewood, would allow a federal or state prosecutor, federal, state, probate, or municipal judge, or law enforcement officer to have their information omitted.

“The idea is that people who are making arrests, judges, prosecutors or someone who is taking someone’s civil liberties away and putting them in jail or prison, to protect them from any kind of violent actor,” Faulkner said.

The bill passed on a final vote of 72-12. Secretary of State John Merrill supports this bill.

Rep. Sam Jones, D-Mobile, offered an amendment that would have included legislators to the list of protected individuals but it failed to pass with a vote of 31-64. Jones said he has experienced many threats since serving as mayor of mobile and being a legislator.

“Everyone you have in the bill should be protected, but I also think the case should be the same for legislators,” Jones said. “We’re the ones making the laws that they have to enforce.”

Rep. Juandalynn Givan, D-Birmingham, agrees that legislators should be included in the bill.

“I have a problem when we start singling out these individuals versus another section of individuals,” Givan said. “When does it stop? When do we stop singling out individuals?”

Rep. Mike Jones, R-Andalusia, said he was against including legislators because it may set up a dangerous precedent for legislators not being as available to the public as they should be.

“They are taking on a role and job that takes people’s liberties and sometimes their lives,” Jones said. “We put ourselves out in the public very intentionally.”

Alabama statute already allows private information to be omitted from the registered voter list if they are a victim of domestic violence.

Doubling voting

A bill that would make it a Class A misdemeanor to vote twice in the same election in or outside of Alabama passed the House late Tuesday night.

House Bill 167 is sponsored by Rep. Chris Blackshear, R-Smiths Station, who said six people were found to be guilty of double voting in 2018.

“When it comes to voter fraud, one is too many and when it comes to the citizens of Alabama I think we should get it to as close to perfect as we can,” Blackshear said.

The bill passed with a final vote of 76-12.

Many democratic members spoke in opposition of the bill for over an hour, saying this is an overblown reaction to a problem that doesn’t exist in the state and is going to end up hurting or suppressing minority votes.

“We’re creating laws to prevent something that’s not happening,” Rep. Napoleon Bracy, D-Mobile, said.

The original bill made it a Class C felony to double vote but after concerns were raised by Rep. Chris England, D-Tuscaloosa, about that being too harsh a punishment, it was changed to a Class A misdemeanor.

Blackshear said the person would have to be found to have knowingly cast a double vote to be convicted of this crime.

Multiple lawmakers said this bill was only made in reaction to former President Donald Trump not winning the 2020 election and the multiple claims of voter and election fraud.

“If Trump won the election, we wouldn’t be talking about these bills,” England said.