Civil Rights Groups Challenge Alabama’s New Voter Assistance Prohibitions

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, civil, voting and disability rights groups filed a new lawsuit challenging Alabama’s new voter suppression law that criminalizes voter assistance. This law is the latest Republican-led piece of legislation that attacks the practice of helping voters with their absentee ballots.  

Signed into law last month, Senate Bill 1 makes it  illegal for anyone other than close family members or cohabitants to help someone request, fill out or return an absentee ballot. The law has an exception for voters with print disabilities, which impair their ability to read or write, but a new lawsuit says its vague provisions do not sufficiently protect low literacy voters, those who are blind or voters with disabilities.

The new lawsuit, filed on behalf of Alabama State Conference of the NAACP, Greater Birmingham Ministries, League of Women Voters of Alabama and Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program alleges that the new voter suppression law violates the U.S. Constitution, Section 208 of the Voting Rights Act and the Help America Vote Act.

“This extreme law is the latest development in Alabama’s long history of restricting the political engagement of Black voters and other marginalized communities,” the ACLU stated in a press release Thursday morning. As the complaint explains, the new law makes it a crime to even provide a stamp to someone distributing absentee ballot applications. 

The ACLU of Alabama stated that the law’s “cruel and unlawful restrictions” particularly harm Black voters, elderly voters, incarcerated voters, voters with disabilities and low-literacy voters as well as civic engagement groups helping to ensure Alabamians vote. The plaintiffs are asking the court to block the law.  

Currently, another lawsuit in Alabama is pending in federal court challenging Alabama’s inaccessible absentee voting system for those who are blind or have print disabilities. Laws limiting voter assistance are currently being challenged in Arkansas, Mississippi, Missouri and Ohio as well. 

Read the complaint here. 

Learn more about the case here.