Alabama NAACP president says he expects voter turnout to be higher than 25 percent

Alabama NAACP President Benard Simelton said in a conference call Tuesday afternoon that he expects a higher voter turnout than the 25 percent estimated by the Secretary of State’s office.

Simelton said turnout reports from across the state encouraged him that Alabama voters were taking part in a historic election in the state.

Simelton was speaking on a conference call with  Kristen Clarke, executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, which oversees the Election Protection, the country’s largest nonpartisan voter protection coalition.

The Election Protection effort usually deals with multiple states on the same day or national elections, Clarke said. The volume and the kind of complaints they’d received in Alabama Tuesday were out of the ordinary, she said.

Clarke said they’d received about 300 calls from concerned voters before 4 p.m. A number of the calls were from voters — who had apparently not voted in a while — who’d been moved to “inactive status.” Clarke said under Alabama law if the voter can prove their identification or their address, they should be allowed to vote without issue.

She said there was also some confusion caused by Alabama’s option of “straight ticket” voting — where a voter can just pick the slate of candidates put up by the Democrats or Republicans. But, Clarke said, since much of the state had only one race to decide, the straight ticket option made little sense. She said a number of voters were confused about what would happen if they voted for Doug Jones and also marked the Republican straight ticket option.

Clarke said there was concern those ballots would be marked as spoiled and she suggested voters simply select a candidate, rather than a party.

There were also concerns raised about voters who’d received text messages telling them — incorrectly — their polling places had changed. Additionally, messages on Twitter were telling some voters their vote was to be cast tomorrow, Clarke said. She said they were still investigating what was behind the texts and messages and whether it was an organized voter suppression effort.

The NAACP’s Simelton said across the state a  number voters were directed to use provisional ballots — ballots that won’t be counted now and will be reviewed by the board of registrars to determine if it was cast by an eligible voter. And, that was an ongoing concern, Simelton said, whether it was stemming from whether a voter had moved, was at the correct precinct or was dealing with challenges to their right to vote.