Alabama Gov. Signs Bill Banning Ballot Harvesting

Alabama Gov. Signs Bill Banning Ballot Harvesting
An election worker opens envelopes containing vote-by-mail ballots in a file photo. (Jason Redmond/AFP via Getty Images)

In what Republicans have pitched as enhancing Alabama’s election security, GOP Gov. Kay Ivey officially signed Senate Bill 1 (SB1) into law on March 20, a decision that has sparked a broad spectrum of reactions across the state.

Sponsored by State Senator Garlan Gudger and State Representative Jamie Kiel, SB1 (pdf) introduces stringent measures against the practice of ballot harvesting, aiming to fortify the fairness and integrity of Alabama elections.

Under the bill, a person could be convicted of a Class C felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison, if they knowingly receive payment or gift for handling someone else’s absentee ballot application, such as pre-filling it.

It is also now a Class B felony for someone to pay a third party to pre-fill or handle an absentee ballot application, with the possibility of up to 20 years in prison.

There are exceptions to SB1 for people who require assistance if they are disabled, blind, or unable to read or write, as well as overseas military personnel.

‘No Funny Business’

Upon the enactment of SB1, Ms. Ivey emphasized the state’s dedication to upholding the sanctity of free and fair elections in her state.

“Here in Alabama, we are committed to ensuring our elections are free and fair. I commend Secretary of State Wes Allen, as well as members of the Alabama Legislature for making election security a priority, and I am proud to officially sign Senate Bill 1 into law,” Ms. Ivey said in a statement. “Under my watch, there will be no funny business in Alabama elections.”

This legislation marks what supporters call a pivotal step in Alabama’s efforts to prevent undue influence and ensure that each voter’s ballot is cast without interference.

Mr. Allen lauded the bill’s passage as a victory for electoral integrity, reinforcing the notion that “Free and fair elections are the foundation of our constitutional republic.”

SB1 specifically targets and criminalizes the act of paying or receiving payment from third-party organizations for the collection or pre-filling of absentee ballot applications, a practice Mr. Allen and other supporters view as a direct threat to the security of Alabama’s elections.

Support and Opposition

As SB1 becomes law, Alabama finds itself at the heart of a national conversation about election security, voter rights, and the balance between preventing fraud and ensuring broad electoral participation.

With both sides entrenched in their views, the debate over SB1 reflects wider national tensions around voting practices and election integrity.

The Alabama Republican Party, through its Chairman John Wahl, expressed gratitude toward the governor, secretary of state, and legislature for their swift action, viewing SB1 as a critical measure in safeguarding the electoral process from practices like ballot harvesting.

“Securing and maintaining the integrity of the electoral process is of the utmost importance to the Alabama Republican Party,” Mr. Wahl said in a statement. “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.”

Conversely, state Democrats, the Alabama ACLU, and other critics argue that SB1 addresses a non-existent problem, potentially harming voter turnout and limiting voting rights.

“Instead of putting forth bills that would actually advance our state, the ALGOP spends their time ‘fixing’ non-existent issues and attempting to give credence to Donald Trump’s unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud,” Sheena Gamble, Director of Communications for Alabama Democrats, said in an email to The Epoch Times.

“When cornered, they are unable to name even a single instance of voter fraud connected to helping an elderly or disabled person fill out a ballot,” Ms. Gamble continued, seemingly overlooking the exceptions outlined in SB1. She said the bill is “designed to harm Democratic voters and voter assistance organizations” for criminally penalizing what she calls “the simple act of dropping off another individual’s ballot.”

Samuel Duff, Voting Rights Policy Strategist for the ACLU, also criticized the bill for criminalizing absentee ballot voting and described it as an act that damages the democratic process by restricting a fundamental U.S. constitutional right. The legislation not only fails to address actual issues but also ironically impacts counties and voters that have historically leaned Republican, he added.

The League of Women Voters also decried the legislation as an affront to the democratic process, calling SB1 an “unjust” law and “just another form of voter suppression.”

In a statement, the organization said that voters deserve “equal and fair access to the ballot, including the option to vote by absentee ballot.”

Voter assistance is “not a crime,” the organization asserted, adding that Alabama should be “making it easier for people to vote.”

The impacts of SB1 on voter turnout, if any, election security, and political engagement will be closely watched by both supporters and opponents of the legislation.

From The Epoch Times

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