State Legislature to debate election reform bills

Published 1:25 am Friday, March 19, 2021

By PAUL DEMARCO / Guest Columnist

After the Nov. 6 presidential election this past fall, there have been calls for election reforms from all sides.

Democrats in the United States House of Representatives have passed legislation to completely revamp elections, including barring state voter ID laws, banning of witness requirements for absentee ballots and measures to make it harder to investigate voter fraud. The bill is now in the Senate where Republicans are vowing to kill the bill which they say would federalize elections at the expense of how states run their polling booths.

While progressives in Washington, D.C. are attempting to weaken the nation’s voting laws, state legislatures in red states are passing their own set of laws to strengthen the integrity of state election laws. In our neighbor Georgia, several bills by Republican lawmakers to tighten up their voter statutes after controversy ensued following the fall elections.

Alabama is no exception, as both parties in the Alabama Legislature have brought forth bills to change ways we vote in the state. Democrats have introduced bills to expand and make it easier to vote absentee. In addition, they also have bills to allow felons to vote without paying restitution to their victims.

So far these bills have gone nowhere and Republicans have sponsored bills to provide for more transparency in the absentee ballot process and strengthen the ability to prevent fraud at the ballot box. Republicans are also pushing bills that would bar any changes to voting laws within six months of an election, which was a contentious issue that has been litigated since the 2020 presidential election.

Democrats believe the path to victory in the state is to allow for more absentee ballots, while Republicans understandably want to make sure the ballot box is secure and does not allow for corruption in counting the votes. While most of the rural parts of the state had no issues, issues arose in the more metropolitan areas.

There are still 17 days left in this legislative session, so we will see if Alabama makes the changes necessary to give voters complete confidence in the election process before the next round of votes in 2022.

Paul DeMarco is a former member of the Alabama House of Representatives.