HUNTSVILLE, Ala.(WHNT)-County commissioners and other local officials across Alabama are pushing for a bill that would change the rules on voter registration rolls and where they are posted.
State Rep. Howard Sanderford (R-Huntsville) is sponsoring HB71, which would end a decades-old practice of county governments having to publish their voter registration lists in local newspapers. Instead, they would be able to publish those rolls on their own county websites for free, potentially saving thousands of taxpayer dollars.
Proponents say the current requirement is outdated due to the explosion of the internet and subsequent decline of newspapers, many of which have seen shrinking revenues and subscriber bases.
"Mainly it's just money that we're spending that's probably just not necessary anymore," said Madison County Commissioner Phil Riddick, who supports the legislation. "It seems just frivolous to print something in the paper that probably most people don't even look at anyway. It [newspaper requirement] was done in a time where it wasn't so easy necessarily to find out information. Today you go on the internet and find out just about anything...fewer people now are taking the paper, so to print the voter list is going to even fewer people now than it used to go to."
Riddick said Madison County spent well over $50,000 on the required newspaper notice during the last election cycle. He told us those taxpayer dollars would have been better spent on road improvements or other needed areas. Rep. Sanderford said the statewide tally for all county governments in the last election cycle was over $1 million. The legislation would still require county officials to post a half-page newspaper ad directing readers to where they can find their county's voter registration list.
WHNT News 19 did reach out to a variety of local newspapers, including The Huntsville Times-AL.com, Athens News Courier, and Decatur Daily. Officials at all of those papers declined to comment on the pending bill.
The Alabama Press Association said it has yet to take a position on the bill, but it has opposed similar legislation in the past.