Think Progress: Alabama Elections Chief Calls Losing the Right to Vote a ‘Minor Disability’


In a legal filing over Alabama’s policy of permanently banning people with certain felony convictions from voting, the state’s elections chief claimed that disenfranchisement is “only a minor disability.”

The Campaign Legal Center, a Washington, D.C.-based voting group, claimed in a lawsuit it filed in 2016 that Alabama’s felon disenfranchisement law, which blocks roughly 15 percent of Alabama’s black population from voting, is racially discriminatory and unconstitutional. In a motion to dismiss last month, Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill (R) argued that the law is neither punitive nor criminal.


In a reply brief, the Campaign Legal Center questioned the argument, claiming “the right to vote is the most important right of citizenship.”


The Campaign Legal Center estimates that because of the law, tens of thousands of ex-felons were able to register and vote for the first time during the December 2017 special Senate election.


The Campaign Legal Center’s lawsuit over Alabama’s felon disenfranchisement law — which is scheduled to go to trial in May 2019 — claims that the policy is racially discriminatory, cruel and unusual punishment, and a violation of the Voting Rights Act.

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