Alabama’s forgotten problem

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 1, 2003

Alabama state government is facing several critical problems right now.

Newspapers every day report on the state’s financial horror stories.

With the current budget situation in Montgomery dominating the headlines, however, many of our elected officials have forgotten one of Alabama’s oldest and most troubling problems, a dishonest election system.

For years, Alabama has suffered through elections filled with disputed ballots being cast and weak voter fraud laws.

I think we can have a better election process in Alabama; therefore, I have co-sponsored six election reform bills that take a huge step toward solving many of Alabama’s election law shortcomings.

Does anyone really doubt that Alabama needs voter identification requirements at the polls?

When a citizen in Nicaragua goes to vote, they have to show a valid identification. Our right to vote should be protected at least as stringently as that of a third world country. If you have to show some form of identification to rent a movie at Blockbuster, then surely something should be shown to prove who you are when you go to vote at the polls.

It is also time to amend the Code of Alabama to require uniform polling hours throughout the state.

Currently, the law allows each individual county to decide when their polls will open and close. This is confusing to many voters due to the fact that several counties in one media market may have different polling hours leading to inaccurate and often contradictory information being reported.

Another issue deals with punishment.

At a minimum, voter fraud should punished stringently in Alabama.

Currently someone guilty of voter fraud in Alabama is only subject to a $500 fine. This is hardly worth prosecuting. Voter fraud in Alabama should be a Class C Felony with penalties ranging from one to 10 years in prison.

Other areas of election reform are equally as important. A good way to further prevent the tampering of vote counts in our state would be the Ballot Integrity Act which would require election returns to be delivered to the office of the judge of probate no more than three hours after the polls close.

The history of Alabama is full of examples when the difference of just a few hundred votes has determined the outcome of an election.

The will of hundreds of thousands of votes should not be thwarted by a few dishonest individuals. While there are many problems in Alabama that need to be addressed, honest election reform should never be forgotten.

Cam Ward is the State Representative for District 49 which includes Bibb and Shelby Counties. He can be reached at (205) 664-1066 or