By Mary Sell, Alabama Daily News
The Alabama Senate on Thursday approved several measures related to elections and alleged voter fraud.
“There are few pillars of our democracy more important than the security of our elections,” Senate President Pro Tem Greg Reed, R-Jasper, said after the votes. “Free and fair elections, conducted in a secure manner, are a hallmark of our country, and serve as a defender of the freedoms that we enjoy as Americans.”
Senate Bill 305, sponsored by Sen. Clay Scofield, R-Guntersville, would prohibit double voting. The bill makes it a Class C felony to vote twice in any election. The bill now goes to the House where a similar bill with a misdemeanor penalty was already approved. Democrats questioned the need for the law.
House Bill 388 received final passage in the Legislature. It’s a proposed constitutional amendment to require any future legislation related to the conduct of general elections be passed at least six months prior to the election. Supporters have said it is meant to prevent possible future lawsuits against the state. Because it’s a constitutional amendment, it does not need the governor’s signature before going to state voters in the next general election.
House Bill 538 from Rep. Alan Baker, R-Brewton and Sen. Chris Elliott, R-Daphne, requires that absentee ballot applications be returned via mail to the election manager’s office at least seven days before an election, or hand delivered five days before an election. Current state law says no matter if you are mailing or hand-delivering an absentee application, it must be submitted to the absentee election manager’s office no later than five days before an election.
Supporters have said after the delays and problems seen with the U.S. postal service during the 2020 election, more time is needed to ensure delivery. The House-passed version would have required 10 days prior to the election. The bill was amended in the Senate to seven days. It must now go back to the House for agreement.
House Bill 154 from Rep. Any Whitt, R-Harvest, and Sen. Rodger Smitherman, D-Birmingham, changes campaign finance reporting laws, including requiring municipal candidates to file reports with the Alabama Secretary of State. That bill now goes to the governor.
The Senate also approved bills to allow election officials to serve in any precinct in a county where they’re registered to vote; to allow the secretary of state to conduct an one-time post-election pilot audit after the 2022 general election.
A vote on a GOP-backed proposal to ban curb-side voting in the state was delayed to avoid a filibuster by Democrats. A similar bill in the House passed through committee on Wednesday.
Sponsors Rep. Wes Allen, R-Troy, and Sen. Dan Roberts, R-Mountain Brook, say House Bill 285 is meant to protect election integrity and the chain of custody of ballots. Democrats said that allowing voters to drop off their ballots outside precincts would help those with disabilities.