MARCH 2020

• Alabama: Republican Gov. Kay Ivey says she opposes legislation that would remove Alabama's excuse requirement for voting absentee. Ivey said that such a move "raises the potential for voter fraud," though her office did not respond to follow-up questions as to why she thinks so. Almost three dozen states allow voters to cast ballots by mail without an excuse and none have reported any non-trivial problems with fraud as a result.

Republican Secretary of State John Merrill previously relaxed the state's excuse requirement, allowing any voter to request an absentee ballot for the state's July 14 primary runoffs by checking a box labeled "I have a physical illness or infirmity which prevents my attendance at the polls" on their ballot applications. Ivey says she plans to avail herself of this option. In a recent interview, Merrill said that only "liberal extremists" are interested in expanding mail voting even though he supported a bill to eliminate the excuse requirement in 2017.



Alabama: A federal district court has rejected an NAACP-backed lawsuit targeting Alabama's method for electing its appellate courts, ruling that the system does not discriminate against black voters.

The plaintiffs are challenging how Alabama elects judges to its state Supreme Court and intermediate appellate courts. These positions are elected on an "at-large" basis statewide, which prevents black voters from electing their chosen candidates because the state's white majority votes heavily for other candidates (i.e., white Republicans).

The plaintiffs had urged the court to strike down the current method and require the state to use districts to elect judges instead, which would have given black voters a chance to form a majority in some districts where they could elect their preferred candidates (likely black Democrats).

At-large election systems have been struck down across the country under the Voting Rights Act for diluting black and Latino voting power, but prior rulings have almost all dealt with elections for legislative bodies such as city councils. Although the Supreme Court ruled in 1991 that the Voting Rights Act applies to judicial elections, it has rarely been used successfully to combat at-large voting schemes. Plaintiffs have said they are still considering whether to appeal.

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