It's more than Mother Nature causing a chill in the air this morning. The Alabama Legislature begins its 2014 session in just 12 days, so number of us are already anticipating the cold fist of the GOP supermajority legislating on issues like ladyparts, Ten Commandments, guns, and tax "relief" for everyone except ordinary working people.
There are a number of things they could be doing instead - and some good bills have already been pre-filed. In this run-up to the session opening day, we'll be looking in more detail at some pending bills - the good, the bad, and the truly ugly.
But let's start on a high note, with some good ideas to improve voting in the state. Since bills are introduced separately in the House & Senate, we'll note the companion bills & sponsors if available.
Create a Fair Ballot Commission: HB9 (McMillian).
- This bill would create The Alabama Informed Voter Act.
- This bill would create a Fair Ballot Commission to approve statements that explain what a vote for or what a vote against a proposed ballot question represents.
- The bill would provide for membership and terms of the commission.
- This bill would require the commission's work to be posted on the Legislature's website.
Also called the "Alabama Informed Voter Act," this bill will hopefully help eliminate the arcane & obfuscated language of the numerous constitutional amendments that appear with depressing regularity on Alabama ballots. From the bill text:
(c) Ballot Statements shall be written in plain, nontechnical language and in a clear and coherent manner using words with common and every day meaning that are understandable to the average reader. Ballot Statements shall be true and impartial statements of the effect of a vote for and a vote against the measure in language neither intentionally argumentative nor likely to create prejudice for or against the proposed measure. In addition, Ballot Statements shall include language as to whether the measure will increase, decrease, or have no impact on taxes, including the specific category of tax.
Domestic Violence Protection: HB7 (Nordgren) would require that the names of domestic violence victims and custodians of minors who have been domestic violence victims be redacted from public voter rolls prior to publication. This would not affect voter rolls at polling places, only those published in for informational purposes.
It requires the person to be proactive in having his/her name removed:
"(2) That a domestic violence order is or has been issued by a judge or magistrate pursuant to the Domestic Violence Protection Order Enforcement Act, to restrain access to the registered voter or a minor who is in the legal custody of the registered voter.
I had never thought about the public voter rolls as being an opportunity for stalking. The only thing lacking in this bill, IMO, is a requirement that the people be notified of the opportunity to remove their names/addresses from the public rolls. Hopefully, this will be part of the process when a domestic violence protection order is issues.
Absentee Voting During State of Emergency: SB15 (Reed). The full text is not available yet, so we're recommending this bill with an asterisk & will revisit later. Still, on the face, the bill makes sense. Alabama has some restrictive absentee voter laws and if we aren't going to fix that, we can at least tinker around the edges.
Reed has said that the will will loosen restrictions on absentee voting during times when the Governor has declared a state of emergency.
Remember the problems that voters in the northeast had in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. People were out of their homes, in shelters, polling places were destroyed, etc. NY Governor Cuomo & NY Governor Christie allowed voters to go to any precinct and cast a provisional ballot. Various groups have stressed the importance of contingency plans for voting after a natural disaster and some senators are studying legislation for federal guidelines.
View the texts/sponsors/status of all bills at OpenBama.org. Their database is much easier to access than the state legislative site, but sometimes lags behind the official site with updates.
Find your legislator here.