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Juneteenth, absentee ballot bills filed in House

Alabama Rep. Prince Chestnut, D-Selma, has offered unequivocal support for a handful of bills pre-filed in the Alabama House of Representatives by Alabama Rep. Thomas Jackson, D-Thomasville, one of which mirrors a bill introduced by Chestnut during last year’s legislative session.

Among Jackson’s offerings is a bill that would designate the third Saturday in June each year as Juneteenth National Freedom Day to “commemorate the abolition of slavery throughout the United States and its territories in 1865,” according to the bill.

Additionally, the bill would require the governor to issue a proclamation each year “honoring this observance and recognizing the important contributions African-Americans have made to Alabama’s communities, culture and economy.”

Further, the governor would be encouraged to take necessary action to promote the holiday and Alabama public schools would be allowed to offer instruction and programs related to the celebration.

Jackson’s “no excuse” absentee voting bill is strikingly similar to the bill Chestnut introduced last session, which failed to pass.

Currently, voters have to meet certain criteria, such as being out of the state, county or municipality on election day or demonstrate a physical illness that prevents attendance at the polls – under Jackson’s bill, like Chestnut’s last year, voters would be able to vote by absentee ballot without providing an excuse.

Jackson’s third bill, which also deals with elections and has Chestnut’s support, would require each county to provide at least one early voting location to be open for a period of 14 days immediately preceding an election, giving voters an opportunity to cast their ballots early.

Currently, in Alabama, voters are only allowed to vote on election day, provided they don’t meet the criteria required to access an absentee ballot.

The Alabama Legislative Session begins Feb. 4 in Montgomery.