Plan to help restore voting rights to thousands in Alabama wins Senate committee approval

Thousands of Alabamians could see their voting rights restored under a bill that won a state Senate committee’s approval Wednesday. SB 231, sponsored by Sen. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster, would clarify the types of crimes classified as “crimes of moral turpitude,” a longstanding murky category of crimes permanently disqualifying offenders from voting in Alabama.

Ward’s bill, which Arise supports, now moves to the Senate. It could reach the Senate floor for a vote as soon as Thursday.

The Senate Judiciary Committee quickly approved the bill after adopting two technical amendments that tweaked the bill’s wording without changing the substance of the proposed reforms. Lawmakers had no other debate about the issue Wednesday.

Secretary of State John Merrill has endorsed SB 231, which fits with the state’s Prison Reform Task Force recommendations regarding ex-felons’ ability to re-enter society successfully as participating and productive citizens. The bill is one of more than a dozen proposals this year to expand or protect voting rights in Alabama. Other legislation seeks to allow early voting and streamline voter registration.

By Stephen Stetson, policy analyst. Posted March 16, 2016.