Alabama Senate to Consider Controversial Voter Registration Bill on Last Day

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May 15, 2013

By Andy Marshall


Montgomery, Alabama: The Alabama Legislature will return to the Capitol for the final day of this session on Monday, May 20. Among the numerous bills up for consideration will be House Bill 162, a bill to end voter registration 7 days earlier before elections than under present law.[1] The bill, sponsored by Representative Wes Long (R), has already been passed by the Alabama House of Representatives and awaits action by the Alabama Senate.

Long's bill would end voter registration 17 days before the election, instead of the current 10. Additionally, the bill would create "a nondiscriminatory, single, uniform, official, centralized, interactive computerized statewide voter registration list defined, maintained, and administered by the Secretary of State."[2]

Many Democrats view HB162 as attempt to make it more difficult for minority voters to register. Republicans, who took control of the legislature after the 2010 elections for the first time since Reconstruction, hold supermajorities in both the Alabama Senate and Alabama House of Representatives and are expected to pass the bill through the Senate, and Republican Governor Robert Bentley is expected to sign it. Supporters of the bill include the Alabama Association of the Boards of Registrars, which said the bill would help registrars by giving them more time to process the large quantity of registrations shortly before elections.[3] The League of Women Voters of Alabama, while acknowledging the need for a statewide voting list, has opposed the bill because it "add[s] constraints to the voting process."[4]

HB 162 was first read in the House on February 6 and then referred to the Constitution, Campaigns and Elections Committee. The House passed the bill 64-37 on a largely party line vote on April 30. Following House passage, the bill was referred to the Senate's Constitution, Campaign Finance, Ethics and Elections Committee and is currently scheduled for a final vote when the Senate reconvenes on May 20.[5] If approved and signed into law, the bill's changes would still need to be approved by the federal government under the Voting Rights Act.

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