Defending Nonpartisan Civic Engagement Organizations in Alabama from Steep Criminal Penalties (Alabama NAACP v. Marshall)


At a Glance

Alabama enacted a law that severely limits the ability of third parties to assist voters with absentee ballot applications, threatening those third parties with criminal liability for their assistance. CLC, SPLC, ACLU-AL, LDF, and ADAP represent several organizations who assist voters with absentee ballot applications in challenging this vague and punitive law. 

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Our democracy works best when every voter can participate, and civic engagement groups help make that possible by helping more people engage in our democracy and assisting those who need it. But Alabamians are now confronted with a new law that restricts their ability to help their neighbors vote and make their voices heard.

On March 20, 2024...

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About this Case

On March 20, 2024, Alabama enacted a new law imposing some of the nation’s most punitive restrictions on absentee ballot application assistance. This law, S.B. 1, criminalizes giving and receiving a “payment or gift” for “distributing, ordering, requesting, collecting, completing, prefilling, obtaining, or delivering a voter’s absentee ballot application,” without defining what constitutes such “payments or gifts.” The restriction carries a Class B Felony penalty, such that people could face a sentence of up to 20 years. This restriction harms both nonpartisan civic engagement groups and voters who need assistance with their absentee ballot applications – particularly incarcerated voters, voters with disabilities, and low-literacy voters – and is the latest development in Alabama’s long history of restricting the political engagement of Black voters and other marginalized communities.  

Lawmakers in Alabama have asserted – without evidence – that the law is needed to combat “ballot harvesting” but the law itself criminalizes absentee ballot application assistance and has nothing to do with casting an absentee ballot. Instead, the new law hampers the activities of civic groups seeking to mobilize and assist voters in their communities in violation of the United States Constitution and federal law.  

Campaign Legal Center (CLC), Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), ACLU of Alabama (ACLU-AL), NAACP Legal Defense Fund (LDF), and Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program (ADAP) represent Greater Birmingham Ministries, League of Women Voters of Alabama, Alabama State Conference of the NAACP and Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program. Each organization’s operations will be directly impacted by the vague and punitive prohibitions on absentee ballot application assistance.

On April 4, 2024, CLC filed suit on behalf of these clients, challenging S.B. 1 as violating the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution, Section  208 of the Voting Rights Act, and the Help America Vote Act of 2002. 

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District Court
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