Statement on the Death of Election Integrity Bills

Today, I issued a statement on several election integrity bills that dies when the Alabama Legislature concluded its 2022 Regular Session last week. You may read the statement below.

On the Road: Montgomery

I visited the State House last week to check the status for SB46. SB46 is Senator Clyde Chambliss’ bill which, if enacted, will prohibit remote connectivity to our voting machines. If you are concerned about election integrity, you may wish to contact you House and Senate members and encourage them to support the amended version of this bill.

On the Road: Montgomery

I had a shorter, local trip yesterday to Montgomery to meet with Mrs. Vivian Hunter and Mrs. Karen Glover to support a bill in the Alabama Legislature that affects the areas where they live. Mrs. Hunter lives in Lake View and Mrs. Glover lives in Tyler Chase, an unincorporated subdivision in Jefferson County.

The good news is the bill passed out of committee and is now on its way to the full House of Representatives for a floor vote.

Mrs. Hunter and Mrs. Glover are both enthusiastic supporters of my candidacy for Secretary of State, of which I’m very appreciative!

With Karen Glover (l) and Vivian Hunter (r)

Did you know …? Time off for Voting

Did you know that in 2006, the Alabama Legislature passed Act 2006-545 which contains the requirement that employers allow their employees time off to vote on election day?

The act specifically states:

“Each employee in the state shall, upon reasonable notice to his or her employer, be permitted by his or her employer to take necessary time off from his or her employment to vote in any municipal, county, state, or federal political party primary or election for which the employee is qualified and registered to vote on the day on which the primary or election is held. The necessary time off shall not exceed one hour and if the hours of work of the employee commence at least two hours after the opening of the polls or end at least one hour prior to the closing of the polls, then the time off for voting as provided in this section shall not be available. The employer may specify the hours during which the employee may absent himself or herself as provided in this section.”

As we approach the coming primary election on May 24, 2022, you may want to consider asking your employer for the time off provided in this law. Remember, however, that your work shift on election day:

  • must commence less than two hours after the polls open, or
  • end less than one hour prior to the closing of the polls.

In addition to reading the original Act 2006-545 as passed by the Legislature, you can also read this requirement in the Code of Alabama at §17-1-5.

Protecting Your Information in the Statewide Voter Registration Database

Americans place a premium on privacy.

People prefer to not talk about their salary in public. Women prefer to not divulge their age, and polite men do not even ask. In many cases, Americans will not discuss in public to which faith community they belong, much less the particular beliefs they hold with regard to that community.

And with the growing incidence of identity theft, we have become even more alert to our potential vulnerability if information about us falls into the wrong hands.

It is ironic then that one activity in which many of us engage as the quintessential symbol of patriotism and our identity as proud Americans and Alabamians is actually part of a system by which our personal information is easily compromised.

Voting is an activity that we often think is subject to great deference to privacy. However, the privacy of one’s personal information that is used to determine eligibility to vote is lacking basic protection in Alabama.

In Alabama, for most us voters, our personal information is for sale. Name. Address. Date of birth. Place of birth. Gender. Race. Phone number.  And election officials are not even waiting for the highest bidder (although the price for purchasing voter’s data can be quite expensive).

The general public has complete access to our demographic information, with the exceptions of the last four digits of our social security number and our driver’s license number, which are protected under state and federal laws. But the remaining information is readily available for anyone willing to ante up the asking price.

There are exceptions, though.  Some voters’ personal information is protected:

  • Personal information is protected if a voter is or has been a victim of domestic violence – or a voter has legal custody of a minor who has been a victim of domestic violence.
  • Personal information is also protected if a domestic violence order is or has been issued by a judge or magistrate to restrain access to the registered voter or a minor who is in the legal custody of the registered voter.
  • And, lastly, personal information is protected if the voter is a federal or state prosecutor; federal, state, probate, or municipal judge; legislator; or law enforcement officer.

The exceptions for people who fall into these categories are important and serve a compelling public interest.  However, voters who do not fall into one or more of these categories may have a valid and compelling reason for wanting their personal information protected as well.

Given that stalking, identity theft, and other forms of victimization are facilitated by knowing the whereabouts of individuals or other personal information, the statewide voter registration database provides a wealth of information for targeting prospective victims.

The statewide voter list easily translates into valuable intelligence for someone seeking a preferred target – whether the target is a hapless innocent chosen at random for identity theft or a woman who may be attempting to evade a stalker or abuser.

In a society that values one’s privacy, participating in our democratic system is to an incredible degree not private, thus creating a disincentive to participation for those people who want — or need — to secure their privacy. During my years of service in the Elections Division at the Secretary of State’s office, I answered many calls from victimized women – or advocates who help victimized women – concerned for their safety if they registered to vote and their residential address became subject to sell.

While there are many legitimate uses for a voter’s personal information, such as voter outreach and education by political parties, candidates, and civic groups, voters should have the right to control whether their information can be used for purposes other than administering voter registration and elections.

Some voters may never think twice or feel a need to care about where the information they place on a voter registration application may land. They may even like being accessible to receive brochures and other materials from candidates and political committees seeking to sway their vote and political party allegiance.

For other voters, though, this lack of control can lead to self-imposed disenfranchisement. This type of disenfranchisement is not effectuated by literacy tests, or poll taxes, or disqualifying felony status, but by the simple desire — or necessity — of someone to maintain an existence that is not publicized.

With the Federal Communications Commission’s and the Alabama Public Service Commission’s “do not call” registries, we have been able to gain some control over our phone lines and protect ourselves from invasion in the privacy through our phone lines (although, as those pushing so-called “car warranties” show us, our phones are still vulnerable to ne’er-do-wells).  Federal law has also provided “opt-out” tools that give us the right to tell businesses to not share our personal information with other businesses.

These types of protections should be extended to the information that is contained in our voter registration file. We, as voters, should be able to tell election officials to not release our personal information if we prefer to keep the data private.  The Alabama Legislature should afford all of us this option.

Election officials should have the right to use our personal information only for the purposes of determining our eligibility to vote. No one else should have a claim on that information without our permission, nor should it be available for the convenience of those who wish to catalog or study or manipulate or exploit us – unless we choose to allow them into our personal lives.

Election Integrity

I was asked in a round about way my position on how we Alabamians can ensure our elections have integrity.

My recommendation for ensuring election integrity is that the Legislature should mandate post-election procedural audits so that the public knows that election administrators have conducted their election according to state and federal laws and regulations.

I have long said during my near-25-year career in the Secretary of State’s office that our elections can have integrity only if the election administrators faithfully comply with the laws and regulations that govern our elections.

If members of the public believe that election officials themselves are doing the wrong thing, even if unintentionally, those people will lose faith in elections.

In calling for these procedural audits, I’m in no way alleging that Alabama’s election administrators have performed in any way other than professionally and honorably. My experience over many years with probate judges, absentee election managers (who are predominantly circuit clerks), sheriffs, members of the boards of registrars, and city and town clerks, is that they perform their duties with integrity and are committed to serving their voters well.

However, it is not necessarily enough to speak of professionalism, honor, integrity, and commitment. Some Alabamians seem to have a kinship with Missourians, who, a long time ago, adopted as their state motto “Show Me”!

From what I have seen, the election administrators I have worked with for over 24 years have always stood ready to show their constituents what they do. They take their responsibilities as election officials seriously and perform their duties with pride.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, Alabama is one of six states that do not require any kind of post-election audit. Our legislature should remedy that situation.

In 2021, to its credit, the Alabama Legislature did pass legislation to require a pilot program for a post-election audit in the 2022 general election. That pilot will involve three counties. We, including members of the Legislature, can and should learn from this pilot program.

Election administrators are not the only people, though, that can help us have faith and confidence in our elections. All of us, as voters in our Great State of Alabama, have a role in ensuring election integrity.

While we may not all be official poll watchers representing a candidate or a political party, we all see what happens at our polling place. If you see something that raises your eyebrow (especially if it raises both eyebrows!), never hesitate to talk to your probate judge (in county-run elections), your city or town clerk (in municipal elections), or the Secretary of State or Attorney General about it.

Whoever you contact can assess whether what you saw was consistent with election laws and regulations. If what you saw is consistent with election laws and regulations, perhaps they can set your mind at ease. But, if what you saw is not consistent with election laws and regulations, they can advise you of what additional steps, if any, are needed to begin an investigation.

As law enforcement often advises the public, if you see something, say something. And do so promptly, especially on Election Day, so that the situation can be addressed as quickly as possible.

New Year’s Resolutions

Like most people, I usually make a few resolutions regarding things I’d like to accomplish in the new year. Here are a few resolutions I’d like to propose for the State of Alabama regarding elections and the administration of elections:

  1. The Alabama Legislature should pass legislation requiring process audits for all elections held in Alabama. The audits would be used to determine whether the laws and procedures governing elections were followed by election administrators in conducting our elections.
  2. The Alabama Legislature should amend the requirements for electronic voting machines to specifically prohibit telecommunication devices in our voting machines. This prohibition should cover not only conventional telephone modems but also Bluetooth, near field communication, and any equipment that would provide connectivity to the Internet.
  3. The Alabama Legislature should provide for “initiative”. Alabamians should be able to address areas of concern that the Legislature has not addressed directly. This action would recognize and honor where the Alabama Constitution says “all political power is inherent in the people”.
  4. The Alabama Legislature should provide to Alabamians with disabilities the same methods of voting that are currently available to members of the armed forces and their spouses and dependents as well as Alabamians who are United States citizens residing overseas. Specifically, Alabamians with disabilities should be able to receive their ballot electronically and cast their voted ballot electronically.