Alabama Secretary Of State Respects Martin Luther King Too Much To Make Voting Easier

That's a shit-eating grin if ever a grin ate shit.

More tales of voting shenanigans today, and wouldn't you know it, they're all about Republicans who worry that letting people vote is a bad idea, not about nefarious Democrats doing fraud -- which only makes sense, since Republicans are so certain that everyone deserves a gun, but the right to vote has to be carefully regulated lest Republicans not win those sneaky Dems steal an election.

For starters, let's take a look at Alabama, where Secretary of State John Merrill -- guess which party! -- is at least not suppressing the vote, but he certainly doesn't like the idea of making voting more accessible. Merrill came out this week against the idea of automatic voter registration, whereby any time an adult who's eligible to vote would be registered when they use state services, like going to whatever they call the DMV in Alabama. Merrill thinks that's simply a terrible idea, and said so to the nice folks behind Answering the Call, a documentary about voting rights:

In short, Merrill thinks automatic registration is only for the lazy and the shiftless: "I don’t think that just because your birthday comes around, that you ought to be registered to vote." After reeling off the names of a whole bunch of civil rights heroes, like John Lewis, Martin Luther King, A. Philip Randolph, and of course Rosa Parks, whom he admires and thinks are simply the best people ever, he says it would be a slap in the face to these great people to just let anyone be registered to vote:

These people fought — some of them were beaten, some of them were killed -- because of their desire to ensure that everybody that wanted to had the right to register to vote and participate in the process. I’m not going to cheapen the work that they did. I’m not going to embarrass them by allowing somebody that’s too sorry to get up off of their rear end to go register to vote … because they think they deserve the right because they’ve turned 18.

Merrill said it was pretty much as lowdown and dishonorable as giving a bunch of losers participation trophies: "You only get a trophy if you win!" On the plus side, at least he didn't insist potential voters prove themselves worthy to register by running a gauntlet of police dogs and fire hoses.

John Lewis probably needs to slap his own face, seeing as how he actually has advocated for automatic voter registration since 1976, when he joined President Jimmy Carter in proposing national automatic voter registration. That's 40 years that Lewis has been sullying his own legacy, and he still hasn't learned his lesson, because even now he supports the idea. Merrill should have a talk with Rep. Lewis about what a disappointment Lewis has turned out to be.

Merrill went on to explain that voting is a privilege, after all, and one that needs to be earned:

If you’re too sorry or lazy to get up off of your rear and to go register to vote, or to register electronically, and then to go vote, then you don’t deserve that privilege. As long as I’m Secretary of State of Alabama, you’re going to have to show some initiative to become a registered voter in this state.

Now there's a man who respects the sanctity of the vote, and wants to protect it from lazy people. Sadly, the interview ended before Merrill got the chance to say all polling stations should be relocated to remote mountain tops, since, Martin Luther King was so proud of having been to one of those, too.

Slimy though he is, Merrill is only opposed to expanding voting -- putting him way ahead of, let's say, Ohio, where in late September a federal court ordered Secretary of State John Husted to restore to the voting rolls over a million people purged because they hadn't voted in the 2012 or 2014 elections. You might think a court order would be something a fellow like Husted, who is so concerned about the rule of law, might follow, but don't be silly -- Husted only wants some of those purged to be able to vote again, and has submitted a counter-proposal:

The state’s plan, which they called a “reasonable compromise,” would exclude anyone illegally purged before 2015, anyone who needs to vote by mail, and anyone who has moved since they last registered to vote. Only those purged last year who have the same address they had in 2011 and can vote in person would qualify.

As ThinkProgress points out, this would really screw over low-income people, since they move more often, as well as people with disabilities, who rely on voting by mail. Which is true, but maybe we could just call them lazy and call it good enough. Happily, the court ruled October 19 that the state must allow almost all of those illegally purged to vote, yes, really, no tagbacks or crossed fingers.

"If those who were unlawfully removed from the voter rolls are not allowed to vote, then the Secretary of State is continuing to to disenfranchise voters in violation of federal law," Judge George Smith warned.

The state was also required to notify purged voters who'd requested absentee ballots that they can vote early or on election day by provisional ballot, though they'd still have to go to a polling place.

In other Ohio voting fuckery, however, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear a lawsuit challenging Ohio's policy of discarding provisional ballots if they contain the slightest error, like not including a middle name, signing their name in the box that says "print name," or in any way including information different from state records -- even if the state records are in error. So if your last name is Kelley and some clerk thought it was Kelly, filling in a provisional ballot with your actual name would invalidate your vote. Fun! The state also changed the amount of time allowed to correct such an error from 10 to seven days, because it could.

And finally, more on North Carolina's brilliantly targeted assault on black voters, which instead of overtly preventing all blacks from voting like in the bad old days, throws up a thousand carefully planned roadblocks to exclude as many black votes as possible. And this is all after a federal court invalidated the state's terrible 2013 law restricting voting.

In addition to overly broad purges of voting rolls in three counties, which the NAACP has challenged in court, Republican-controlled county elections boards have rushed to find creative ways of suppressing the black vote, like vastly reducing early voting hours, or cutting the number of early voting locations. In Lenoir County, where Democrats outnumber Republicans two to one, the Republicans on the board (all county boards comprise two Republicans and one Democrat, no matter the actual county makeup) cut early voting time by three-quarters, and restricted early voting to a single site for a large, rural county, requiring long trips to cast a vote. Across the state, boards have eliminated early voting on Sundays, since many African-Americans were accustomed to going to vote after church. Other counties eliminated polling places on college campuses, since college students are notorious Democrats -- so hey, at least the restrictions aren't all motivated by racism.

As we said in our earlier piece on North Carolina, Donald Trump appears to be right that the elections this year are rigged in many places -- as usual, he's just lying about who's doing the rigging.

[Slate / Answering the Call / ThinkProgress / ThinkProgress again / ThinkProgress yet again / NYT]

Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.


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