Alabama A&M and Oakwood University students concerned about voter status

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - Students from Alabama A&M and Oakwood University spoke out at a press conference Thursday regarding what they are calling an instance of voter suppression by the state of Alabama.

The state sends out voter confirmation postcards to everyone who registered to confirm the address. But some students say they never received theirs and, after checking their registration status, found out they were listed as "inactive."

In speaking with university housing at AAMU we were told that student mail is to be addressed to each individual student and their dorm assignment, but it still goes to a central mail center.

Oakwood University's housing office said its students' mail is also addressed to students and their dorm rooms, and it actually gets sent to each individual dorm building.

Both universities notify students when they receive mail or packages. Whether they come to pick it up, is up to the students.

Rev. Gregory Bentley, president of the Huntsville chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, said what's happening with these students is all too familiar.

"We know a duck when we see one," he said. "And we know voter suppression when we see it too. We've seen these dirty tricks before, during the days of poll taxes, literacy tests and grandfather clauses."

Bentley also said these students' voter confirmation cards were returned to sender and subsequently shredded, which placed them on the inactive voter list.

During the press conference, one community member raised the question of why there aren't other ways to confirm your address.

"A postcard in the mail is archaic," the person said. "Why not send a text message and have people text back to confirm their address?"

Students in attendance say they fear that on a school day their peers won't have time to fill out new forms or wait longer to vote because they are on the inactive list.

Ayo Lewis, an Oakwood student, said it was tough to get people excited to vote and this is discouraging.

"It was hard to get people to register to vote in the first place," Lewis said. "They already felt like they weren't able to vote. Or like it didn't count or didn't matter. So when you get news like this, it's like 'Oh I was right.'"

Members of the Huntsville NAACP and SCLC still encourage students at these universities, and others who are confused about their registration status, to go to the polls next week and vote.

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