The North Alabama Coalition for HB 396
Why do we support HB 396?
Tara Bailey, founder of I Vote Madison, initiated a coalition in North Alabama to support HB 396, the no-excuse absentee voting bill. Joining I Vote Madison is the League of Women Voters of the Tennessee Valley and Vote Huntsville. Our coalition is happy to have the opportunity to actively support Alabama legislation that increases access to the electoral process. No-excuse absentee voting is convenient, secure, and transparent.
Life is unpredictable, and it shouldn't require a pandemic for voters to benefit from no-excuse absentee voting. Registered Alabama voters should not have to go through unnecessary hurdles in order to plan ahead to secure their vote in an upcoming election. HB 396 will especially benefit the elderly, people with disabilities, and those who have limited transportation, unpredictable work schedules, caretaking responsibilities, or health conditions.
Over 200% more absentee ballots were submitted in 2020 than in 2016, contributing to a record-breaking 62% voter turnout in Alabama. Last November's election showed that Alabamians want more access to absentee voting and proved that our state can manage large amounts of absentee ballots securely.
Secretary of State John Merrill co-sponsored the bill. Grace Newombe, spokesperson for the Secretary of State's office, has said that the excuses that are provided are not tracked and that the other requirements for absentee voting, such as photo identification and affidavit signatures, were more useful at deterring fraud. At the public hearing in front of the Constitution, Campaign, and Election Committee, Newcome said, "Since Secretary Merrill has been in office, he is only aware of one circuit clerk in the entire state of Alabama who actually verifies that a voter is out of town or that he or she is working a 10-hour shift or longer."
Some opponents of the bill are of the mindset that if the system isn't broken it shouldn't be altered. When questioned by the committee at the public hearing on February 24, Newcombe said, "I would say that just because something works doesn't mean we shouldn't be working to make it more effective and more accommodating to the the voters of Alabama." Our coalition agrees, and believes that these hard-to-understand and unnecessary excuses do more to confuse and even intimidate voters more than they deter any possible fraud.
Dropping the excuses makes voting more accessible and can lead to increased voter turnout. No-excuse absentee voting is convenient, secure, and transparent.
Every Alabama voter should have the power to plan ahead to secure their vote in an upcoming election against anything life throws their way. They shouldn't have to provide elaborate justifications or release information about their private lives to the government if it is immaterial in maintaining election security.