In the run up to the historically painful U.S Senate loss in Alabama, state Republicans have already started making excuses as to who responsible for their candidate, Roy Moore’s seat loss in the December 12 vote. One of the main groups that has bore the brunt of the blame game going on in the state GOP were Alabama’s felons, some of whom were restored their rights for voting, over the last year.
During the previous Alabama statewide election cycle, there were approximately 286,266 felons who were not able to cast a ballot. Former candidate Roy Moore wrote on Twitter, on November 29th,2017, “Breaking: Democrat operatives in Alabama are REGISTERING thousands of felons all across the state in an effort to swing the US Senate election to Doug Jones!”
The specter of voter fraud and in particular, felon voting, has been a favorite of the Republican party going all the way back to the 1960s when they accused John F. Kennedy Jr of winning the Presidential election by voter fraud. Richard Nixon claimed that JFK won the election by getting dead people to vote for him in Illinois.
This past May, Alabama Governor Kay Ivey, made the process of determining who could vote somewhat easier by signing the “The Definition of Moral Turpitude Act,” which specifically list 42 crimes that ban someone from voting. Under the original Alabama constitution, there was no list of specific violations that fall under moral turpitude and this was used to prevent most felons from voting.
Under the first section of the Alabama constitution, sections one A and one B, describe the process for determining who can vote in the state:
(a) “This section shall be known and cited as right to vote when convicted of a crime only if the conviction was for a felony involving moral turpitude.”
(B) “Under general law, there is no comprehensive list of felonies that involve moral turpitude which disqualify a person from exercising his or her right to vote. Neither individuals with felony convictions nor election officials have a comprehensive, authoritative source for determining if a felony conviction involves moral turpitude and is therefore a disqualifying felony.”
Governor Kay Ivey, signed the voter restoration bill back on May 25th, 2017. The bill passed both houses of congress in Alabama unanimously, even passing the House of Representatives 102 to 0 with one vote counted as “other.” The bill then passed the Senate with 29 “Yes,” votes and 0 “No,” votes and 6 counted as “others.”
The felon vote could have proved deceive if enough were signed up in time. The official results were Doug Jones winning with 49.9 percent of the vote or 671,151 votes, to Roy Moore’s 48.4 percent and 650,436 votes. 1.7 percent (22,810) voted for a “write in,” candidate.
“We commend Governor Ivey and the Alabama State Legislature for recognizing that Alabama law left the voting rights of too many citizens-especially Black citizens- hanging in the balance because of legal ambiguity,” a statement from the NAACP read following the signing. Several groups were in support of the Governor’s action, including the NAACP, and The Ordinary People Society founded by Pastor Kenneth Glasgow.
“We’re trying to right a wrong by giving people their rights back, who never should have lost them in the first place,” Glasgow said regarding the restoration act.
Glasgow was among a group of activists who went to dozens of jails across Alabama and helped register felons and educate them regarding the upcoming Senate race. However, experts do agree that it remains too early to determine how pivotal the felon vote was in the election.
In conclusion, if the Republican party in Alabama thinks that felons are to blame for their loss they should take a look in the mirror and do some self-reflecting. What is truly required is for them to rethink their strategy for picking the candidate they offered to the voters and simply find a way to offer a better candidate the next time around. Welcome to democracy.
Links to sources:
- Think Progress: https://thinkprogress.org/voter-registration-former-felons-alabama-election-aa3ba5ecb020/
- Al.com: https://www.al.com/news/index.ssf/2017/05/gov_ivey_signs_bill_restoring.html
- Open States: https://openstates.org/al/bills/2017rs/HB282/
- Alabama State Constitution: https://alisondb.legislature.state.al.us/alison/searchableinstruments/2017RS/bills/SB237.htm