Alabama Republicans Enact Legislation to Restrict Voting Access and Prohibit DEI Initiatives

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State lawmakers on Tuesday passed a bill that bans the use of paid assistance for absentee ballot applications. Additionally, another bill was approved that places restrictions on diversity, equity, and inclusion programs within state agencies and universities.

The two bills have now been forwarded to Gov. Kay Ivey for her signature.

According to AP, if the absentee voting bill passes, it would be considered a misdemeanor to provide voters with pre-filled absentee ballot applications or to submit another person’s completed application. Furthermore, the bill would make it a felony to receive any form of payment or gift in exchange for distributing, ordering, requesting, collecting, completing, prefilling, obtaining, or delivering a voter’s absentee ballot application.

Republicans argue that the bill has been designed to address the issue of “Ballot harvesting.”

“Our elections serve as the bedrock of our constitutional republic, and it is imperative that no one receives compensation for submitting their absentee application or ballot,” Secretary of State Wes Allen emphasized in a press release. He firmly stated, “Engaging in ballot harvesting should never be considered a legitimate occupation.”

State Democrats and advocates, however, strongly opposed the bill, labeling it as a desperate ploy to create obstacles for individuals seeking to exercise their right to vote.

Jerome Dees, the Alabama policy director for the Southern Poverty Law Center Action Fund, expressed his thoughts on the bill in an interview with AP. He described it as “cruel legislation that seeks to criminalize the compassionate actions of good Samaritans across the state.” Dees emphasized that this bill would affect various individuals, including neighbors, church members, nursing home staffers, and prison chaplains.

Conservatives all over the country have made DEI efforts a priority, and Republicans are not only restricting voting rights but also aiming to demolish these initiatives.

The Alabama bill aims to restrict universities, K-12 school systems, and state agencies from supporting DEI programs. These programs, as defined by the bill, include any activities where participation is determined by an individual’s race, sex, gender identity, ethnicity, national origin, or sexual orientation (AP).

The bill further states that no university or agency can mandate the attendance or participation of its students, employees, or contractors in any diversity, equity, and inclusion program. It also prohibits any training, orientation, or coursework that promotes or necessitates agreement with a divisive concept.

The language used in the bill regarding gender identity and restrooms is cause for concern. The legislation states that public institutions of higher education would be required to assign restrooms based on biological sex and impose penalties for any violations.

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