Alabama Governor Signs Restrictive Absentee Ballot Assistance Bill Into Law

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Legislation that criminalizes some assistance for absentee ballot voting in Alabama passed the state Legislature on Tuesday, and was subsequently signed into law by Gov. Kay Ivey (R). The new law will take effect in time for the general election in November, Secretary of State Wes Allen (R) said in a statement to on Saturday.

The bill makes it illegal for anyone other than close family members or cohabitants to help someone request, fill out or return an absentee ballot. Anyone who is caught receiving or giving money for such activities — a practice known as ballot collection and pejoratively as ballot harvesting — could be prosecuted as a felony offense. 

The one exception in the law applies for people with disabilities or those who cannot read or write, and allows roommates or people who are not close family members to help these voters fill out and return an absentee ballot. The bill also requires anyone requesting an absentee ballot to disclose that they aren’t barred from voting because of a felony conviction — or if they have, that their right to vote has been restored. Under current law, absentee ballots don’t require voters to check a box on an absentee ballot confirming their voting eligibility. The Senate concurred on Tuesday in a 24-5 vote to changes that the House made on the bill on Feb 14.

The passage of the bill sparked heated debate in both the House and Senate before it passed. During a Feb. 7 Senate Governmental Affairs Committee hearing on the bill, Sen. Garlan Gudger (R), a cosponsor of the bill, claimed that the secretary of state’s website shows the percentage of absentee ballots in each county that were “harvested,” according to the Guardian

Laurel Hattix, a staff attorney with the ACLU of Alabama challenged Gudger to release the alleged data, saying, “There has been no evidence provided to organizations, to other policymakers that this idea of ballot harvesting or problems with absentee ballots is a widespread problem in Alabama.”

False allegations and conspiracy theories of widespread “ballot harvesting” took hold of the GOP in the 2020 and 2022 elections, but numerous reports found no such evidence that widespread voter fraud occurred in either election. Still, Alabama Republicans repeatedly claimed that their bill was in response to a growing problem. 

“We need to realize this is happening and there is a solution,” John Wahl, the chair of the Alabama GOP, said during a House hearing on the bill on Feb. 28, according to “This is to make sure every single vote is safeguarded and can be counted.”

At the same hearing, Carol Mosley, vice president of the League of Women Voters of Alabama, said that their organization received a report from the Alabama secretary of state’s office that detailed the percentage of absentee ballots by county, but the report didn’t include anything about illegal ballot harvesting, according to “It’s what is being handed out when you ask for proof as to why we need this bill,” said Mosley. “It’s simplistic and meaningless.”

During her State of the State address on Feb. 6, Ivey mentioned the bill, signaling that she plans to sign it. In her address, she noted that it would be a “priority” to ban so-called ballot harvesting ahead of the 2024 election. “We would put a stop to any manipulation of our elections by closing loopholes that allow unaccountable, paid political operatives to pressure folks through the absentee voting process,” she claimed.

Read the bill here.

Learn more about ballot collection here. 

This post was updated on Monday, March 25 at 9:00 a.m. EST to reflect the law going into effect by Nov.