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Alabama prison commissioner, under GOP pressure, halts prison voter registration drive’s Printer-Friendly Page

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) – Alabama Prisons Commissioner Richard Allen stopped a voter registration drive for inmates Thursday under pressure from the Alabama Republican Party.

In a letter to state Republican Party Chairman Mike Hubbard, Allen said individuals conducting the program “were not doing anything for the inmates that they could not do themselves by simply contacting the Secretary of State’s Office for the voter registration postcard.”

Still, Allen said he decided to stop the drive because of a section in the state code that prohibits using state-owned property to promote or advance candidates for election.

A coalition of groups had started registering inmates to vote this week. Their goal was to get the inmates to request absentee ballots and cast them in the general election Nov. 4.

Allen’s letter to Hubbard was in response to one the chairman e-mailed him earlier in the day, saying the GOP supports the idea of registering more people to vote, but not when it comes to prisoners.

Alabama law prohibits felons convicted of “crimes of moral turpitude” from voting unless they have had their rights restored. State law doesn’t define such crimes, but court opinions have said they include major offenses like murder, robbery and rape plus some lesser offenses, like taking a stolen car across state lines.

Confusion over which crimes involve “moral turpitude” has led to litigation seeking the restoration of prisoners’ voting rights. The most recent was filed in July by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of three ex-inmates.

Let’s just not mince words here:  

Now, let’s not forget that a large share of these young African-American males are in prison as drug law violators, including 562 prisoners on “possession of marijuana I” charges (unicorns, I suppose), 2,951 on “possession of a controlled substance” charges, 7 on “failure to attach a tax stamp for marijuana”, 1 on “possession of marijuana II” (another unicorn?), and a couple hundred more on various marijuana trafficking and cultivation charges.

You can hear my interview with the always-entertaining Loretta Nall (she of inflatable pig fame) on today’s episode (to be posted after 4:20pm) of my NORML Daily Audio Stash.  (Warning: Loretta’s a fiery white Southern woman unafraid to us the dreaded word that rhymes with “trigger” to characterize the motives of the Alabama GOP.)

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