Alabama Arise condemns insurrection, demands protection and expansion of voting rights

Alabama Arise executive director Robyn Hyden released the following statement Friday on this week’s events in Washington, D.C.:

“The assault on the U.S. Capitol this week was a violent and racist attack on the very idea of democracy. It was an effort by white nationalists and other extremists to reject the results of a free and fair election and to tear the fabric of our shared freedoms. Alabama Arise condemns this disgraceful, reprehensible insurrection in the strongest possible terms.

“The peaceful transfer of power is essential to the continuation of our representative democracy. Everyone’s freedoms are jeopardized when lawmakers attempt to disregard the results of free and fair elections or when mobs attempt to overrule those elections by force.

“Arise denounces incitements to violence and insurrection by elected leaders and political extremists. We also denounce the white supremacist ideologies that fuel attempts to reject legitimate votes from people of color.

“Alabama has a painful history of overturning legitimate election results by disregarding the will of Black voters. Similar strategies were used to ratify our racist 1901 state constitution, which disenfranchised Black voters and explicitly aimed to establish white supremacy under the law.

“Our ability to progress as a state and a nation will be limited as long as any person or group is unable to exercise their constitutional right to vote. We call upon all of our elected officials to acknowledge and affirm the 2020 election results. And we demand that everyone involved in carrying out or inciting Wednesday’s insurrection be held accountable for their actions.

Steps toward a better, more inclusive future

“Arise applauds the grassroots organizers and elected leaders who have worked for years to expand access to free and fair elections. In recent months, we have witnessed amazing levels of mobilization and grassroots engagement to ensure that all eligible voters can participate in deciding their political future. The fact that nearly 160 million Americans voted despite a pandemic, a crushing recession and rampant voter suppression efforts is a testament to these organizers’ work.

“Ensuring that every eligible voter can access the ballot must be a top priority to protect our democratic republic. We call upon Congress to strengthen the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and provide protections from further attempts to suppress votes. And we urge Alabama lawmakers to protect and expand voting rights by instituting automatic voter registration and lifting barriers to voting rights restoration.”

How Alabama Arise is working to build a brighter future after the pandemic

After a year of darkness, the light at the end of the tunnel is finally in sight. Promising vaccine news offers hope that public health officials can rein in COVID-19 in the coming months. And as our state and nation seek policy solutions to rebuild from the pandemic’s health and economic devastation, Alabama Arise will seek to advance equity and shared prosperity for Alabamians who are marginalized and excluded.

That vital work won’t be fast or easy. In the meantime, the pandemic’s harrowing toll continues to grow. COVID-19 has killed more than 1.5 million people worldwide, including more than 3,900 Alabamians, and sickened tens of millions. It has fueled a deep recession, caused millions of layoffs and left more than 40% of U.S. children living in households struggling to make ends meet. It has stretched hospitals to the breaking point and disrupted education, commerce and social interactions in every community.

The Alabama Legislature will begin its 2021 regular session Feb. 2. As the health and economic tolls of the COVID-19 pandemic continue to mount, Alabama Arise will keep working hard to empower people who live in poverty and to lift up their voices in state policy debates.

COVID-19 has created suffering on a staggering scale. It also has highlighted long-standing economic and racial disparities and underscored the urgency of ending them. A new legislative session and a new presidency will offer new opportunities to right those wrongs in 2021 and beyond.

The federal and state work ahead

The most immediate needs will require federal action. Congress must extend state aid and additional unemployment insurance (UI) benefits before they expire this month. But those extensions should be just a down payment on a more comprehensive response.

Arise will urge further UI benefit increases and more federal relief to help states avoid layoffs and damaging cuts. We also will advocate for emergency rental and mortgage assistance and a 15% boost to food assistance under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). And we’ll support regulatory efforts to lift harmful Medicaid and SNAP barriers created in recent years.

Flyer on Alabama Arise's 2021 issue priorities. For more information, visit https://www.alarise.org/news-releases/alabama-arise-unveils-members-2021-roadmap-for-change.

We’ll also keep working for better state policies when the Legislature returns in February. Our top focus will be Medicaid expansion, which we’ll pursue along with partners in the Cover Alabama Coalition. Expansion would cover more than 340,000 Alabamians with low incomes and ease the financial strain on rural hospitals. It also would attack structural health care disparities that led COVID-19 to take a disproportionate toll on Black Alabamians.

Arise’s work won’t stop there. We’ll support legislation to expand voting rights and ensure broadband internet access for all Alabamians. We’ll seek to increase consumer protections and overhaul the state’s criminal justice system. And we’ll fight to untax groceries once and for all.

Breakthroughs on many of these issues won’t be fast or easy. But together, we’ll emerge from dark times into the light of a brighter, more inclusive future for Alabama.

Join us at Alabama Arise’s 2021 action briefings!

Alabama’s 2021 legislative session begins Feb. 2. It will not proceed as usual given the extraordinary times in which we live. But we still need to be prepared to move our issues forward. This series of briefings will both inform and equip us to act strategically to continue the work for a better Alabama for all.

Please join us at any or all of these sessions! Registration is required, so please register at the link under each description.

Tuesday, January 12, 6 p.m.Legislative advocacy in a pandemic

We will preview what we expect for the coming session, including what will be different. We also will share legislative advocacy tips for this (temporary) new normal. Click here to register for this session.

Tuesday, January 19, 6 p.m.Voting rights

More people are voting than ever before. We will talk about ways to protect and strengthen voting rights in Alabama. Click here to register for this session.

Tuesday, January 26, 6 p.m.Criminal justice and death penalty reform

We will discuss Alabama’s unjust criminal justice system – and how to fix it. Click here to register for this session.

Monday, February 1, 6 p.m.State budget priorities

Budgets are moral documents. Let’s put our money where our values are. Our budget priorities should reflect our commitment to advancing economic and racial justice. Click here to register for this session.

Alabama Arise action briefings flyer

It’s Election Day! Check out Alabama Arise’s 2020 voting resources

We made it! Today is Election Day across the United States. More than 300,000 Alabamians have voted already, shattering the state’s previous record for votes cast before Election Day. And we’re likely to continue to break records today.

The presidential and U.S. Senate races are drawing the biggest share of the attention in Alabama this year. But voters also will decide on their U.S. representatives, six statewide constitutional amendments and a host of state and local offices.

Have you made a plan to vote? Below, Alabama Arise has information about how to vote in person, what to do if you face barriers to voting, and why we urge Alabamians to vote YES on Amendment 4.

Vote!

Heres what you need to know for Election Day:

If you face any intimidation, threats or other barriers to voting, trained volunteers are ready to help:

  • English: 866-OUR-VOTE (866-687-8683)
  • Spanish: 888-VE-Y-VOTA (888-839-8682)
  • Asian languages: 888-API-VOTE (888-274-8683)
  • Arabic: 844-YALLA-US (844-925-5287)

Alabama Arise supports Amendment 4

Vote Yes on Amendment 4!

From our blog: “It’s past time for Alabama to tear down the policy legacies of slavery and segregation. And Alabamians can take an important step in that direction this fall by voting yes on Amendment 4. …

“Amendment 4 would allow the Legislature to remove racist language from the constitution. Examples of these provisions include references to separate schools for Black and white children and the prohibition of interracial marriages. This change would address one of the constitution’s original sins: its authors’ explicit intent to establish white supremacy in Alabama.”

Read more about Amendment 4 here.

Alabama Arise resources for the 2020 general election

Election Day is officially Nov. 3, but the 2020 general election is well underway. More than 206,000 Alabamians have voted already, shattering the state’s previous record for votes cast before Election Day.

The presidential and U.S. Senate races are drawing the biggest share of the attention in Alabama this year. But voters also will decide on their U.S. representatives, six statewide constitutional amendments and a host of state and local offices.

Have you made a plan to vote? Below, Alabama Arise has information about how to vote by mail or in person. And we explain why we urge Alabamians to vote YES on Amendment 4.

Vote!

It’s not too late for absentee voting!

  • The deadline to submit a standard absentee ballot application or to vote absentee in person this year is Thursday, Oct. 29.
  • The last day to postmark an absentee ballot is Monday, Nov. 2, the day before the election.
  • Due to potential mail delays, voters who are interested in voting absentee should consider safely doing so in person. Absentee ballots must arrive at the election manager’s office by no later than 5 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 2 (if hand-delivered) or by noon on Tuesday, Nov. 3 (if returned by mail).
  • Alabamians may vote absentee if they are worried about crowded polling places during the COVID-19 pandemic. On the application, they should check the box that says “I have a physical illness or infirmity which prevents my attendance at the polls.”
  • You can find much more information and resources on absentee voting on the Alabama Secretary of State’s website.

What you need to know for Election Day

Alabama Arise supports Amendment 4

Vote Yes on Amendment 4!

From our blog: “It’s past time for Alabama to tear down the policy legacies of slavery and segregation. And Alabamians can take an important step in that direction this fall by voting yes on Amendment 4. …

“Amendment 4 would allow the Legislature to remove racist language from the constitution. Examples of these provisions include references to separate schools for Black and white children and the prohibition of interracial marriages. This change would address one of the constitution’s original sins: its authors’ explicit intent to establish white supremacy in Alabama.”

Read more about Amendment 4 here.

Alabama Arise unveils members’ 2021 roadmap for change

Sentencing reform and universal broadband access are two new goals on Alabama Arise’s 2021 legislative agenda. Members voted for Arise’s issue priorities this week after nearly 300 people attended the organization’s online annual meeting Saturday. The seven issues chosen were:

  • Tax reform, including untaxing groceries and ending the state’s upside-down deduction for federal income taxes, which overwhelmingly benefits rich households.
  • Adequate budgets for human services like education, health care and child care, including Medicaid expansion and extension of pre-K to serve all eligible Alabama children.
  • Criminal justice reform, including repeal of the Habitual Felony Offender Act and changes to civil asset forfeiture policies.
  • Voting rights, including automatic universal voter registration and removal of barriers to voting rights restoration for disenfranchised Alabamians.
  • Payday and title lending reform to protect consumers from getting trapped in debt.
  • Death penalty reform, including a law to require juries to be unanimous in any decision to impose a death sentence.
  • Universal broadband access to help Alabamians who have low incomes or live in rural areas stay connected to work, school and health care.

“Arise believes in dignity, equity and justice for all Alabamians,” Alabama Arise executive director Robyn Hyden said. “And our 2021 issue priorities would break down many of the policy barriers that keep people in poverty. We can and will build a more inclusive future for our state.”

Graphic naming Alabama Arise's 2021 issue priorities

The urgent need for criminal justice reform

Alabama’s criminal justice system is broken and in desperate need of repair. The state’s prisons are violent and dangerously overcrowded. Exorbitant court fines and fees impose heavy burdens on thousands of families every year, taking a disproportionate toll on communities of color and families who are already struggling to make ends meet. And Alabama’s civil asset forfeiture policies let law enforcement seize people’s property even if they aren’t charged with a crime.

Arise will continue to seek needed reforms in those areas in the coming year. The organization also will work for repeal of the Habitual Felony Offender Act (HFOA), the state’s “three-strikes” law. The HFOA is an unjust driver of sentencing disparities and prison overcrowding in Alabama. The law lengthens sentences for a felony conviction after a prior felony conviction, even when the prior offense was nonviolent. Hundreds of people in Alabama are serving life sentences for non-homicide crimes because of the HFOA. Thousands more have had their sentences increased as a result. Repealing the law would reduce prison overcrowding and end some of Alabama’s most abusive sentencing practices.

Universal broadband access would help struggling Alabamians stay connected

The COVID-19 pandemic has illustrated the essential role that the internet plays in modern life. Remote work, education, health care and shopping are a reality for millions in our state today. But far too many Alabamians, especially in rural areas, can’t access the high-speed broadband that these services require. These access challenges also reveal a racial disparity: About 10% each of Black and Latino households have no internet subscription, compared to 6% of white households.

Policy solutions can facilitate the investments needed to ensure all Alabamians can stay connected. Lawmakers can help by guaranteeing that all communities have the right to own, operate or deploy their own broadband services. The Legislature also can enact targeted and transparent tax credits to promote broadband for underserved populations.

Town Hall Tuesdays: What we heard from Arise supporters

Listening is often an underdeveloped skill, yet it is critical for mutual understanding and working together for meaningful change. That’s why Arise is committed to listening to our members, to our allies and most importantly, to those directly affected by the work we do together. We depend on what we hear from you to guide our issue work and our strategies.

This year’s COVID-19 pandemic challenged us to be creative in finding ways to listen. Instead of our usual face-to-face meetings around the state, we hosted a series of six statewide online Town Hall Tuesdays. We held events every two weeks, starting in June and ending Sept. 1. We averaged 65 attendees at each session. Here’s some of what we heard from members and supporters:

  • Affirmation for Medicaid expansion, untaxing groceries and other current Arise issues as important for achieving shared prosperity.
  • Empathy for those who were already living in vulnerable circumstances further strained by the pandemic.
  • Concern about ongoing, intentional barriers to voting, especially during the pandemic.
  • Desire to see more resources to meet the needs of our immigrant neighbors.
  • Alarm about payday and title lending and its impact on people’s lives and our communities.
  • Passion and concern about many other issues, including housing; living wages and pay equity; prison and sentencing reform; gun safety; juvenile justice reform; defunding the police; the Census; environmental justice; quality and funding of public education; and food insecurity and nutrition.
  • Willingness to take informed actions to make a difference in the policies that impact people’s lives.
  • Hope that Alabama can be a better place for all our neighbors to live despite systemic issues and ongoing challenges.

Notes from each town hall

Overviews of the town halls are below. Click the title for a PDF of the notes from the breakout sessions at each town hall.

June 23 – Money talks
We examined how to strengthen education, health care, child care and other services that help Alabamians make ends meet. And we explored ways to fund those services more equitably.

July 7 – Justice for all
We discussed Alabama’s unjust criminal justice system and how to fix it.

July 21 – Getting civic
Discussion focused on protecting voting rights and boosting Census responses during a pandemic.

Aug. 4 – Shared prosperity
We looked at policy solutions to boost opportunity and protect families from economic exploitation.

Aug. 18 – Feeding our families
We explored ways to increase household food security during and after the recession.

Sept. 1 – Closing the coverage gap
Discussion focused on how everyone can help expand Medicaid to ensure coverage for hundreds of thousands of struggling Alabamians. We also heard about the expansion campaign strategies of the Cover Alabama Coalition, headed by Arise campaign director Jane Adams.

Get in touch and stay in touch with Arise

Remember, we didn’t stop listening because the town halls ended. We want to hear from you, and we encourage you to contact the Arise organizer in your area:

We hope to see you at Arise’s online annual meeting Oct. 3!

New Senate COVID-19 relief plan falls short of meeting Alabamians’ needs

U.S. Senate Republicans on Monday unveiled a new proposed COVID-19 relief plan. Alabama Arise executive director Robyn Hyden issued the following statement Tuesday in response:

“Millions of Alabamians are being pushed to the brink during the COVID-19 crisis. They’re struggling with difficult tradeoffs between protecting their own health, paying for basic necessities and caring for children and seniors. Nearly one in four renters in Alabama are behind on rent. And one in five adults with children in our state say their kids sometimes don’t have enough to eat because the household just can’t afford enough food.

“As families face these health and economic shocks, the Senate relief proposal fails to meet the demands of the moment. This plan would slash supplemental unemployment insurance benefits amid the highest unemployment since the Great Depression. It wouldn’t increase housing assistance to prevent families from being evicted and becoming homeless. It wouldn’t increase SNAP benefits to address the critical hunger concerns facing families of schoolchildren. And it wouldn’t provide Alabama and other states with the money needed to invest in child care, avoid teacher layoffs and prevent cuts to Medicaid and other vital services as budget shortfalls grow.

“This plan is inadequate by any measure. We urge our senators to reject it and look instead toward the approach taken in the House-passed HEROES Act. The House plan would boost Medicaid funding and offer more support for essential workers and people who lost their jobs. And it would provide federal assistance so states can avoid devastating service cuts that would hurt tens of millions of people.”

What a meaningful COVID-19 relief plan should look like

Alabama Arise urges Congress to negotiate a COVID-19 relief package that does the following:

  • Boosts Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits so struggling families can keep food on the table.
  • Increases housing assistance to help people pay their rent and mortgages and to avert a surge in homelessness.
  • Preserves the weekly $600 federal increase to unemployment insurance benefits.
  • Provides additional federal funding for states to avert harmful layoffs and invest in vital services like Medicaid and child care.
  • Removes administrative barriers to alternative school meal distribution procedures for districts that are holding classes online.
  • Allocates federal funding to help election officials process more absentee ballots and maintain proper social distancing at polling places.
  • Makes the Child Tax Credit temporarily available to children in families with the lowest incomes and expands the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) for low-paid workers who are not raising children in their homes.

You’re invited to Arise’s Town Hall Tuesdays!

Arise’s statewide online summer listening sessions are a chance to hear what’s happening on key state policy issues and share your vision for our 2021 policy agenda. Register now to help identify emerging issues and inform our work to build a better Alabama.

We’d love to see you at any or all of these sessions! Registration is required, so please register at the link under each description.

June 23rd, 6 p.m. Money talks

How can we strengthen education, health care, child care and other services that help Alabamians make ends meet? And how can we fund those services more equitably? Click here to register for this session.

July 7th, 6 p.m. Justice for all

We’ll discuss Alabama’s unjust criminal justice system – and how to fix it. Click here to register for this session.

July 21st, 6 p.m. Getting civic

How can we protect voting rights and boost Census responses during a pandemic? Click here to register for this session.

August 4th, 6 p.m. Shared prosperity

Policy solutions can boost opportunity and protect families from economic exploitation. Click here to register for this session.

August 18th, 6 p.m. Feeding our families

How can we increase household food security during and after the recession? Click here to register for this session.

September 1st, 6 p.m. Closing the coverage gap

Join the Cover Alabama Coalition to discuss how you can help expand Medicaid. Click here to register for this session.

Alabama must tear down the legacies of slavery and segregation

The monument stood in Birmingham for decades as a twisted tribute to Alabama’s original sins: slavery and white supremacy. It “honored” a violent rebellion that sought to protect the enslavement of human beings. During segregation and Jim Crow and civil rights protests and into the 21st century, it served as a daily 52-foot-tall reminder of the systemic oppression and persecution of Black Alabamians.

That monument is finally gone now. After protests, the city pulled it down June 1, on a state holiday named for the political leader of the rebellion it commemorated. Removing physical symbols of slavery and segregation is an important step toward healing and recovery, but it’s not enough. We also must tear down prejudices, disparities and injustices that trace their roots to these oppressive and racist practices. To do that, Alabama must enact public policies that undermine white supremacy and promote dignity, equity and justice for everyone.

The need for racial justice

For more than 30 years, Alabama Arise has worked to make life better for struggling Alabamians through better public policy. It’s impossible to do that work effectively without acknowledging and challenging our state’s historical and ongoing racial inequities. There can be no economic or social justice without racial justice. And as scholar Ibram X. Kendi said, policy cannot be merely non-racist; it must be anti-racist. That’s why we’re committed to placing racial equity and inclusion at the core of our work.

Black Alabamians have battled generation after generation of discriminatory barriers to education, jobs, housing and voting. Compounding those barriers is a criminal justice system that polices Black people more heavily, arrests them more often and condemns them to harsher sentences in dangerously overcrowded prisons and jails.

For centuries, Black people have suffered from police brutality and unequal treatment from law enforcement. This history has fueled protests across the country and around the world over the last week. Arise stands in solidarity with calls to stop killing Black people and start building a world that’s safe for everyone.

All of these systemic failures have added together to produce a series of terrible, ongoing disparities. Black people in our state face higher rates of poverty and hunger, lower life expectancies and lower rates of employment and health insurance coverage.

Policy changes to break down harmful barriers

These are institutional failures that require policy solutions. Here a few ways lawmakers can help break down barriers to opportunity and justice:

  • Expand Medicaid to cover adults with low incomes. Expansion would ensure health coverage for more than 340,000 Alabamians who are uninsured or barely paying for insurance they can’t really afford. It also would attack a fundamental injustice: People of color make up about 34% of our state’s population, but nearly half of all uninsured Alabamians with low incomes are people of color. Lack of affordable health coverage deprives Black people of timely care for cancer, diabetes, heart disease and other serious conditions. As the disproportionately high share of coronavirus deaths among Black Alabamians shows, health care access is literally a matter of life or death.
  • Invest more in public education. Alabama’s state funding for K-12 and higher education, adjusted for inflation, is lower today than it was in 2008. This chronic underfunding hits many schools that primarily serve Black students especially hard.
  • Equitably distribute funding for affordable housing and public transportation. Alabama has trust funds for both but hasn’t funded them yet. Lawmakers should fund public transportation to help everyone get to work, school and other places they need to go. Alabama should support the Housing Trust Fund to ensure people living in deep poverty have safe shelter. Our state also should commit to eliminating redlining, fighting housing discrimination and proactively reducing residential segregation.
  • Overhaul the criminal justice system and the death penalty. Areas with large Black populations often see a larger police presence. The weight of harsh sentences and criminal justice debt falls more heavily on these Alabamians as a result. Lawmakers should reform sentencing laws and ease the crushing burden of exorbitant fines and fees. They also need to end abuses of civil asset forfeiture and eliminate racial injustice in the state’s death penalty system.
  • Strengthen and expand voting rights. Voting barriers should find no home in the heart of the Civil Rights Movement. Automatic voter registration, no-excuse absentee voting and same-day registration are a few changes that would make voting more accessible. Alabama also should ease barriers to voting rights restoration.
  • Raise the minimum wage and restore home rule to localities. Alabama is one of only five states with no minimum wage law. Birmingham tried to raise its minimum wage in 2016, but state lawmakers blocked that effort. The Legislature has that power due to the 1901 state constitution, whose authors explicitly said the document aimed to “establish white supremacy in this state.” Alabama should lift constitutional barriers to home rule and allow local governments to make decisions in their own communities.

A better, more inclusive future for Alabama

Undoing the legacies of slavery and segregation in Alabama will require more than reassuring words and vague platitudes. It will require substantive policy changes to break down centuries-old barriers and ensure all Alabamians have a chance to reach their full potential.

Many of these changes – and others not mentioned above – won’t be easy. Some of them may not happen quickly. But we must keep advocating and working toward the day when they will. The road to dignity, equity and justice for all Alabamians remains a long one. But walking together and working together, we can and will reach that destination.