Several Alabama organizations sent a letter to Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill on Monday expressing concern that many Alabama counties have failed to properly inform voters about how to vote in the midterms.
“Your responsibilities under Alabama and federal law advise you to take prompt action to publish an accurate, uniform and comprehensive list of polling places throughout the state to reduce voter confusion and disenfranchisement that often results,” the Merrill groups wrote in the letter . . “It is important that your office take urgent action in light of reports that Alabama’s disjointed election administration system is causing confusion, creating barriers to voting, and disenfranchising black and other voters of color.”
The letter states that under Alabama law, election officials are required to notify voters of their polling places by posting a list of voters and their respective polling places.
Merrill said the groups need to “familiarize themselves” with the law and said the letter is based on a misunderstanding of the law.
“The lists are published by law in a local publication,” Merrill said. “That is not a list we require or maintain.
Merrill said groups should contact probate judges in each county, and they can distribute the lists themselves if they wish.
In the letter, the groups emphasize their belief that every county should have a list of polling places readily available online.
“Websites are the primary means of communication for official information in the districts. However, some counties do not post anything online, while others post information that is inaccurate, contradictory, and at times so severely lacking in relevant detail that it does not meaningfully inform voters about their polling places,” the groups wrote. “For example, Etowah County does not publish a list of voting precincts or a map of polling places on its website. When the county changed polling places ahead of the 2022 primary election, it published a list of all polling places in an online news article, but did not include the corresponding precinct numbers and provided residents with no means to determine their precinct location.
A single list led by the secretary of state would “immediately address inequities in information and access,” they said.
The letter shows that majority-minority counties have particularly poor access to online voting information.
“Of the above sample (of 14 Alabama counties), every county with a black population greater than 50% lacks a precinct list, a map of polling places, and an interactive polling place finder that allows precinct voters to find where they voted based on their address. “, the letter reads.
The letter also criticizes the widespread closure of polling stations.
“Alabama’s election commissioners justified the poll closures on population decline, but this purported rationale does not match actual changes in population,” the letter states. “For example, Bullock County’s election commissioner explained that the county closed seven of its 15 precincts this year because ‘[o]your rural population has dwindled.”
“Yet, according to U.S. Census data, the population of Bullock County — 69.5 percent of whom are black — declined by only 557 people between 2010 and 2020, a 5 percent population decline that is clearly insufficient to justify the approximately 47 percent reducing the number of polling stations. . Since 2010, Jefferson County has closed nine of its polling places, even though its population increased by 16,255 people between 2010 and 2020.
The groups are urging Merrill to take action before the general election, which is scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 8.
Co-signers included the Legal Defense Fund, ACLU of Alabama, Alabama ARISE, Alabama Election Protection Network, Alabama Forward and Lift Our Vote.