In 2021, the Alabama Legislature passed a few pro-voter initiatives, particularly related to absentee voting. However, it also implemented new restrictions. The Legislature also implemented a strict ban on private funding for elections in 2022. Because Alabama made some small pro-voter progress, particularly in a state that has not been very friendly to voters in previous years, Alabama received a C- on this year’s progress report.
Where Alabama Started in 2020
During the 2021 session, the General Assembly passed several pro-voter pieces of legislation that further expanded voting rights in the state.
- Automatic Voter Registration: No
- Online Voter Registration: DMV ID
- Same-Day Registration: No
- Restoration of Rights: Some Permanent Disenfranchisement
- Vote by Mail: Excuse-Only
- Electronic Registration Information Center Member: Yes
- Early Voting Opportunities: No
- ID Requirements: ID Requested, but not Required
Relying on the Cost of Voting Index for Alabama as of 2020, we considered the state a bottom tier state for pre-existing voting policy and compared its 2021-22 activity against other bottom tier states.
How Our Tier Compares:
2021: Two Years Ago
During the 2021 session, the Legislature passed several new election laws. Although Alabama already has some of the harshest anti-voter laws in the nation, the legislature found a few more election-related areas to restrict.
- H 285 prohibits outdoor and curbside voting.
- H 116 allows the secretary of state to conduct a one-time audit of the 2022 election in 3 counties, but fails to include any standards or requirements for how the audit should be conducted.
However, the Legislature also managed to implement a few modest pro-voter reforms.
- H 538 removes the requirement for absentee ballots to be postmarked the day before the election, allows absentee ballot processing to start at 7am on election day, and requires all mailed absentee ballot applications to be received 7 days before the election instead of 5 days.
- H 314 revises voter list maintenance processes to require the board of registers to utilize the post office’s national change of address program to update addresses for voters that have moved within a voting district and send notice to a voter’s former address if the system flags the voter as having moved outside the voting district.
- H 312 allows poll workers to serve at any precinct in their county instead of being restricted to their own voting precinct.
2022: This Past Year
This past year, the Legislature chose to pass yet another unnecessary restriction on elections during the 2022 legislative session.
- H 194 prohibits election officials from accepting private funding for election-related expenses, including voter education, voter outreach, and voter registration programs and subjects violators to a misdemeanor charge. Several advocacy groups in the state have raised serious concerns that the language could restrict third-party organizations from conducting their normal voter registration and outreach programs in the state.
- Since 2016, Alabama has been a member of ERIC, a membership organization made up of over thirty states that provides advanced voter list maintenance services. During that time, ERIC helped Alabama remove more than one million out of date voter registration records. While Secretary of State John Merrill repeatedly stood up against demands from some members of the legislature to terminate Alabama’s participation in ERIC, unfortunately, newly elected Secretary of State Allen has already informed ERIC that he intends to remove the state from the organization.