From The Tribune staff reports
MONTGOMERY — Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall submitted an extensive report to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee refuting claims by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) that Alabama engages in voter suppression and seeks “to establish white supremacy in the State.” The Alabama Attorney General also provided written testimony during a Senate Judiciary Subcommittee hearing Wednesday, September 22, amending the Voting Rights Act.
“In 1965, in response to persistent and widespread efforts to deny minority voting rights, Congress passed the Voting Rights Act, which imposed a temporary requirement that Alabama and other states receive federal preclearance before implementing any new voting procedures,” Attorney General Marshall said. “This was an extraordinary remedy that has no justification today. As all nine members of the Supreme Court recognized in 2009, ‘Things have changed in the South,’ with black and white Americans now registering and voting at similar rates and minority candidates holding offices at unprecedented levels.
“But activist groups seek to deny this progress in an attempt to justify reimposing stringent federal control over election laws in Alabama and other politically disfavored states. To that end, the SPLC recently submitted a lengthy report to the U.S. House of Representatives, complete with hundreds of pages of declarations from Alabama voters, seeking to prove that federal preclearance of Alabama election laws is again justified because (the report ludicrously contends) Alabama’s goal is ‘to establish white supremacy in th[e] State.’
“The SPLC’s report, however, ends up merely demonstrating the progress that Alabama has made and the lack of any justification for reimposing preclearance. For while the report was compiled by one of the largest and best-funded activist organizations in the nation, it comes nowhere near showing the sort of pervasive and flagrant discrimination that justified preclearance decades ago. Instead, the SPLC’s repeated reliance on misleading narratives, glaring omissions, and easily debunked claims show that there simply is no legitimate case to be made for preclearance.
“For example, the SPLC ignores that in 1969, only 19.3 percent of black Alabamians were registered to vote, compared to 69.2% of whites. Nearly a half century later, Alabama had the second highest black voter registration rate in the nation. In 2016, black voters in Alabama turned out at higher rates than white voters by 4.6 percent—60.2 percent compared to 55.6 percent. By comparison, Connecticut that year saw a racial divide of 13.1 percent the other way: 61 percent of whites voted compared to just 47.9 percent of black voters.
“And while the SPLC rails against Alabama’s photo ID requirement for voting as evidence of ‘white supremacy,’ they neglect to mention that Alabama’s law was upheld by both federal courts that considered its legality. And despite two years of litigation, challengers to the law could not identify a single person who needed a photo ID and could not obtain one.
“The reality is that while Alabama, like our Union, is not perfect, ‘things have changed in the South.’ Attempts by the SPLC to deny this reality merely confirm it.”
Marshall thanked Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill and his office for their invaluable assistance in preparing the State’s detailed response to the SPLC’s claims.