MONTGOMERY – The Alabama House of Representatives passed the amended HB 167 on Tuesday evening. This bill, sponsored by Rep. Chris Blackshear (R-Phenix City), would prohibit an individual from voting multiple times in a single election.
It is already illegal under current law to vote in the same election more than once in Alabama. Currently, however, it is not a violation of state law for someone to vote in the state of Alabama, even if they voted in the same election in another state, such as a presidential election.
The vote to pass HB 167 was 76-12 with five abstentions.
MPs Barbara Boyd, Prince Chestnut, Adline Clarke, Merika Coleman, Anthony Daniels, Chris England, Juandalynn Givan, Laura Hall, Sam Jones, Taschina Morris, Neil Rafferty and John Rogers – all Democrats – voted against the bill.
The abstentions were Barbara Drummond, Berry Forte, Jeremy Gray, Dexter Grimsley and Rod Scott, also all Democrats.
Democratic opposition to the law even came after Blackshear accepted an amendment from England, which also chairs the Alabama Democratic Party. This change changed the penalty provision for the newly created offense from a Class C crime to a Class A crime. The change would introduce the same change to the existing offense of voting more than once in Alabama in the same election.
The bill requires a person to knowingly and intentionally vote more than once in a single election for the act to be a crime.
Blackshear, explaining the background to the bill, stated that at least six Alabamians voted in the same elections in multiple states in 2018. Data for the 2020 elections are not yet available. The bill sponsor emphasized that while six voters make up a tiny percentage of the ballots cast nationwide, one election fraud case is too much for his liking.
The first Democrat to originally speak out against the bill during the floor debate was Rep. Napoleon Bracy of Mobile. However, Bracy voted for the legislation in due course.
The second representative to speak against HB 167 was Forte, the representative of Eufaula, whose district on the Alabama-Georgia border borders Blackshear’s district.
In sweeping remarks, Forte blew up former President Donald Trump’s claims that the 2020 presidential contest had been “manipulated” and “stolen” from him.
The Democratic representative also claimed that HB 167 was actually aimed at suppressing the voices of African Americans.
“All of these bills that are passing you by are not going to stop [people from voting]”Said Forte on the floor.” Everyone thought it would all stop when Dr. King was murdered, but it didn’t stop. … I don’t understand how all these bills are coming out. “
Forte rhetorically asked several times, referring to Trump, how to manipulate a modern election. Given the opportunity to respond, Blackshear noted that “has absolutely nothing to do with HB 167”.
“This is nothing more than electoral suppression, you know that,” said Forte.
“Do you think everyone should have the right to vote?” asked Blackshear.
“I would think so,” Forte replied.
“OK, and if so, do you have the right to vote once, twice, three times – more than once?” Blackshear asked.
Forte didn’t answer that question, simply asking Blackshear how many people in his district had voted in multiple elections in multiple states.
“This bill does not suppress the vote,” said Blackshear.
“Yes it is,” argued Forte.
At this point in the conversation, Forte focused on comparing HB 167 to the persecution of Nelson Mandela in apartheid South Africa.
“He was just trying to get people to vote,” said Forte. “A predominantly black country run by whites.”
After remembering how Mandela was eventually elected President of South Africa, Forte continued, “So what are you scared of? What are you afraid of suppressing people’s voices? … Are you afraid that we will take over and elect another black president? “
“And I’m not a racist. I have as many people’s white friends as I have black people’s friends, ”he added without being asked.
Speaking of which, the next speaker on the bill was Givan, who recently accused all Republicans who voted against one of their bills on committee of being racist.
Givan blew up HB 167 in her keynote address. She also doubled up on her recent comments.
“I do not apologize very much for the people in this House – I do not call them my colleagues – but they are members of the House of Representatives,” said Givan. “I called the thing as I saw it. I’ll name it tonight. “
“We’re a step – we can be kind, we can rub our elbows, that’s fine, if those are the rules, if you want to imitate this, that’s fine – but I have a right to my vote.” speak, “she continued. “We’re one step away from Jim Crow. A suit and tie removed from Jim Crow in the state of Alabama. We’re just one step away from counting jelly candies in a jar as black people here in Alabama. “
Givan soon claimed that passing a law to ensure that Alabamians do not vote multiple times on the same election was disenfranchisement.
“We stand here and pass laws to further disenfranchise the black voice,” she said.
Givan pointed out that the “real intent” of the law is “to disenfranchise black voters, unlike what Georgia is doing with legislation that says you can’t even give a person a bottle of water” .
“They give water to dogs,” said the representative from Birmingham.
She then stated that the state of Alabama should not punish or monitor people for voting in a single election in multiple states.
“You should stop glossing over those death certificates that you are all doing to bring here,” Givan said, addressing her Republican counterparts.
“Survey taxes – that’s where we are in the state of Alabama,” she said. “One step away.”
“And again I stand by my comments from three weeks ago. You are not the only one. They were just the ones I called, ”Givan concluded.
England followed suit and called the bill a solution to a problem. In his remarks, he also expressed his support for reducing all electoral fraud crimes from a class C crime to a class A crime.
Several other members spoke before Blackshear finally accepted England’s amendment, which happened to or may not end the debate on the bill.
HB 167 is now going to the Senate for examination.
Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn