Alabama voting rights activists warn that House Bill 209 will "criminalize helping people"
Updated On: Jul 06, 2023

"Helping people should never be a crime, and at its core, that's what [HB209] is about; making it a crime to help someone participate in the democratic process."

By JOE HARRISON Published on May 23, 2023

Earlier this month, the Alabama legislature’s HB209 bill was officially passed by the House and has moved on to be deliberated on by the Senate, with unfortunately good odds that it will ultimately succeed. We have been reporting at length about how damaging this bill would be when it comes to Alabama citizens casting their votes, as it will effectively criminalize simple actions of helping voting citizens make sure their voice is heard.

According to the text of the bill, HB209 will “prohibit any person from distributing, ordering, requesting, collecting, completing, obtaining, or delivering an absentee ballot application or absentee ballot of another person…” It’s not difficult to surmise that this bill is a reaction to the alleged “voter fraud” that was peddled by former president Donald Trump and his followers.

Among those leading the charge to protest this bill is the Alabama Voting Rights Coalition, a non-profit group whose “mission is to build collective power to advance voting rights in Alabama. Build power and cultivate accountable relationships between organization partners working toward voting rights in Alabama. Influence policy & legislation related to voting rights. Contribute to a shared understanding of voting rights and justice among affiliated organizations and their bases through political education” (Source: Alabama Voting Rights Coalition Facebook page). And earlier this month, hosts Jacob Morrison and Adam Keller had the opportunity to sit down with representatives from the coalition on The Valley Labor Report.

“If you’ve been listening the last few weeks you’ve heard me go off about this bill; I am very concerned about this bill, I think it’s a bad bill,” Adam said, kicking off the segment. “House Bill 209 would criminalize assistance with the absentee voting process — anything from giving someone a ride to go pick up an application, much less a ballot, would be criminalized, and you could face a Class D Felony charge. I just think that’s so egregious. In this state, and really everywhere across this country, we should be making it easier to vote; we should be reducing the barriers to voting. Not making it harder, and certainly not criminalizing people who are helping folks participate in the election, and exercise their constitutional right to vote.”

From the Alabama Voting Rights Coalition, Jacob and Adam were joined by Maddie Minkoff and JaiGregory Clark to talk about the egregious bill.

“It’s horrible because it criminalizes help,” said Clark. “Helping people should never be a crime, and at its core, that’s what this is about. It’s about making it a crime to help someone participate in the democratic process. And that affects such a large swath of our society — our disabled veterans, those who are incarcerated but not convicted and do have the right to vote, those who face physical disabilities like blindness who find it to be a challenge to make it to the polls, much less get a ballot that’s in brail. There’s a whole group of people that need help participating in our democratic process, and this bill is a direct assault against every one of them.”

Minkoff also pointed out that there is another large demographic that will be affected by HB209. “College students are a huge population of people that are so directly impacted by this,” she said. “At [University of Alabama] we don’t get Election Day off, if professors have to hold class, we have to show up. So absentee voting is super, super important for college students. We have over half of our population is out-of-state, the other half might be from Mobile or Montgomery, somewhere where you can’t get to class and get to your home poll in the same day, realistically.”

For more details and discussion on how HB209 will negatively impact and impair the democratic process, watch the full interview on YouTube:

Joe Harrison is graphic designer and video producer for The Valley Labor Report, as well as an orchestral composer. Having a long history with self-centered, manipulative, and abusive employers, he joined TVLR in November 2021 in an effort to raise awareness of worker struggles and the severe imbalance of power in the workplace and the nation as a whole.

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