Merrill, Marshall laud ruling on felons’ voting rights

Published 3:11 pm Monday, December 7, 2020

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Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall and Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill on Friday released statements celebrating a recent ruling by a U.S. District Court, which ruled against legal challenges to the state’s laws and practices regarding the voting rights of felons last week.

“Alabama’s voting laws ave once again withstood legal challenges,” Marshall said in a press release Friday. “The federal district court for the Middle District of Alabama ruled against multiple challenges to Alabama’s law preventing certain felons from voting, as well as the process through which voting rights may be restored for some felons. It is particularly gratifying that the court rejected constitutional claims of intentional racial discrimination for lack of evidence.”

Alabama voters overwhelmingly approved a 1996 amendment to the state’s constitution limiting the revocation of voting rights to those convicted of felonies involving “moral turpitude,” such as murder, rape, kidnapping and similar crimes, rather than all felons.

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Additionally, the state provides some felons the ability to regain their voting rights.

The lawsuit, which dealt largely with the “moral turpitude” provision of the state law, asserted that the law is racially discriminatory and imposes cruel and unusual punishment.

Further, the plaintiffs in the case sought to have the list of all disqualifying felonies added to the voter registration form – the list includes roughly 60 crimes, including first and second degree forgery, first and second degree theft of property or lost property, theft of trademarks and trade secrets, trafficking in cannabis and more.

“Our voter registration application clearly lists the qualifications necessary to register to vote at the very top of the form,” Merrill said in a Friday press release. “While plaintiffs alleged the form was not sufficient in identifying crimes of moral turpitude, our office has worked extensively to notify Alabamians of these crimes through listing them online, on the back of absentee ballot applications and through information supplied to the Board of Pardons and Paroles, the Department of Corrections and county sheriffs.”

Plaintiffs also alleged that requiring felons to pay certain court-ordered fines and fees before voting rights are restored amounts to unconstitutional wealth discrimination.

The court ruled in the state’s favor on every claim.

“Our office allocates an extraordinary amount of time, effort and resources into educating Alabamians on voter registration and voter participation,” Merrill said. “Last [week’s] ruling reaffirmed that these efforts satisfactorily meet state and federal statute.”