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PRESS RELEASE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

April 4, 2024


CONTACT
Anneshia Hardy 

media@alvalues.org

Legal Challenge Launched Against Alabama’s SB 1, Law Penalizing Voter Assistance Efforts

Montgomery, AL – In a united stand against voter suppression, a coalition of civil rights, voting rights, and disability rights organizations has filed a lawsuit challenging Alabama’s Senate Bill 1 (SB 1). The law, set to take effect on October 1, 2024, ahead of the November general elections, imposes severe restrictions on nonpartisan civic engagement efforts, criminalizing most forms of assistance in applying for absentee ballots.

The Alabama State Conference of the NAACP, Greater Birmingham Ministries, League of Women Voters of Alabama, and the Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program, represented by Campaign Legal Center, Legal Defense Fund, Southern Poverty Law Center, the American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama, and Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program, are the plaintiffs in this lawsuit. They are suing Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall, Alabama’s 42 District Attorneys, and Alabama Secretary of State Wes Allen, aiming to block the enforcement of SB 1.

Gov. Kay Ivey signed SB 1, sponsored by Sen. Garlan Gudger, R-Cullman, on March 20.

The lawsuit challenges SB 1 as violating the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution, the Voting Rights Act, and the Help America Vote Act of 2002.

From the moment SB 1 was introduced, civic and grassroots organizations, along with the wider community, have been vocal in their opposition, making their presence felt at the Alabama State House to voice their concerns.

Bernard Simelton, President of the Alabama State Conference of the NAACP, a lead plaintiff in the case, expressed his frustration with the state’s contradictory actions, “The State of Alabama is engaging in double talk, claiming to make voting easier while erecting barriers for our most vulnerable communities. We saw a record number of absentee ballots cast during the 2020 election when barriers were removed. People will vote absentee if we eliminate obstacles.”

Since the 2013 Shelby v. Holder Supreme Court decision, there has been a significant uptick in anti-voting legislation introduced across the country. This ruling, which weakened key provisions of the Voting Rights Act, has emboldened states to enact laws that restrict access to the ballot, disproportionately impacting marginalized communities. 

Rhayne Wagner, Senior Policy Manager at Black Voters Matter Fund, reflects on the ongoing struggle for voting rights and the significance of this lawsuit in the broader historical context, “Our past has always informed our present in the fight for voting rights. Black people have always had to have our voting rights legislated in court. Today is no different. We will fight back against these coordinated attacks on our voting rights.”

Rodreshia Russaw, Executive Director of The Ordinary People Society (TOPS), highlighted the law’s impact on disenfranchised communities, “SB1’s cruel restrictions aim to harm eligible voters in disenfranchised communities through voter intimidation tactics. This lawsuit is a shameful waste of tax dollars and wreaks havoc on the upcoming elections.”

The severity of the penalties prescribed by SB 1 is a point of contention, with critics arguing that the bill assigns disproportionate consequences for actions related to assisting voters with absentee ballots. This overreach has raised concerns about the potential chilling effect on civic engagement and the accessibility of the voting process.

Alison Mollman, Legal Director at the ACLU of Alabama, criticized the severity of the law’s penalties, “SB1 equates assisting someone with their absentee ballot application with offenses like manslaughter and statutory rape by making it a Class B felony. This law is unconstitutional, and we stand with our clients to protect their constitutional rights.”

As the general elections approach, the implications of SB 1 become increasingly concerning. 

Deanna Fowler, Interim Director of Alabama Forward, reaffirmed the commitment of the statewide civic engagement network, “Alabama Forward and its member organizations are dedicated to ensuring that Alabamians have adequate access to the ballot. While this fight continues in the court, we will continue our collective efforts to empower every Alabamian to engage in the democratic process.”

Alabamians are encouraged to stay connected and informed around important election deadlines which can be located on the Alabama Votes website. Also report any issues they may have at the polls on election day by calling: 

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Alabama Values is a grassroots communications organization working to raise awareness and increase engagement around community issues in Alabama. Alabama Values works directly with grassroots civic organizations advocating to build power and break down barriers to civic participation for communities across the state. 

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