House Bill 209 (HB209), legislation sponsored by State Rep. Jamie Kiel (R-Russellville), which would have cracked down on ballot harvesting, did not get a vote on the State Senate floor last week before the 2023 legislative session ended.
Senate Minority Leader Bobby Singleton (D-Greensboro), a vocal opponent of the bill, appeared on this week's broadcast of Alabama Public Television's "Capitol Journal" to lay out his opposition.
According to the Hale County Democrat lawmaker, there was no problem with ballot harvesting in Alabama, and the bill's penalties for aiding in certain aspects of the absentee ballot process were too harsh.
"I thought it was a bad bill," he said. "First of all, we don't have a problem with ballot harvesting in this state. There's no problem at all. Even the Secretary of State could not give us one incident to where it had happened. They are like getting out ahead of the game. But you was going to give a person a felony for being able to go out and assist someone with the application, not the ballot with the sworn affidavit — with just an application itself. And so, something is wrong with that, and I think that members of this party, we looked at both sides of the aisle. We all deal with absentee ballots at some point. We all may have someone to go out and get absentee ballots, locate people and/or assist people with absentee ballots. There is no law on the books right now against you taking that application, filling it out for someone — as long as you doesn't sign their names in terms of that legal signature line, then you fine. You can help them, assist them with the information. And once the ballot get back, it is a legal affidavit. If it is not filled out properly, that person could be held with a felony or some kind of discipline against them."
Singleton claimed both his Democrat and Republican colleagues had problems with the legislation.
"So what we want to do is make sure that that didn't happen," Singleton added. "And so, it got out of committee. It never made the calendar because I think there was some controversy on both sides of the aisle. I know we're going to face it. It's going to come. But between now and that time, we want to sit down with the Secretary of State and have them objectively look at this bill so we won't be taking out people or putting people in jail to where they're just trying to do a civic duty and help someone."
Jeff Poor is the editor in chief of 1819 News and host of "The Jeff Poor Show," heard Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-noon on Mobile's FM Talk 106.5. To connect or comment, email jeff.poor@1819News.com or follow him on Twitter @jeff_poor.
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