Federal judge dismisses voter registration lawsuit involving Alabama A&M student ballots
HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – The voter registration lawsuit filed by four Alabama A&M students was dismissed in federal court on Tuesday. The lawsuit, that claimed voters’ rights violations, was filed on November 9 against Lynda Hairston with the Madison County Board of Registrars and Secretary of State John Merrill.
“Those students who suggested that they had appropriately and properly completed their voter registration application and submitted it in a timely fashion, was not confirmed by the registrar’s office,” Merrill explained. “Therefore their names did not appear on the voter rolls and there was no evidence that they had submitted that.”
Judge Madeline Hughes Haikala agreed with the defense that there was no proof the voter registration forms (mentioned in the statements below) actually made it to the Board of Registrars office.
The students said, in the lawsuit, they checked whether they were active voters on the secretary of state’s website one day after the election. They claimed it showed they were active and their polling place was the university, where they cast the provisional ballots the day before.
Brent Beal, attorney for the secretary of state’s office, said the reason it showed they were active but their ballots were denied is because they submitted a new voter registration form with their provisional ballot.
That was processed and accepted by the time they checked the website on November 7. However, it meant their voter registration was officially accepted after the October 22 registration deadline, so their ballots were thrown out.
Students Jordon Jackson, Kendra Jones, and Simeon Sykes, along with university employee Monica Clarke and voter registration drive volunteer Virginia Bailey filed written statements ahead of Tuesday’s hearing in federal court. Below is a breakdown of their statements:
Jordon Jackson wrote in her affidavit she is an AAMU student and completed a voter registration form around noon on October 14 at a drive on campus. Jackson said she registered with a friend at the same time. Jackson said she went to vote on November 6 with her friend.
She testified the friend was registered to vote and cast a regular ballot, but Jackson said she did not show up in the system and therefore cast a provisional ballot.
Kendra Jones testified she is an AAMU student and registered online on October 10 at a registration drive held on campus by the Delta Delta chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.
Jones said, upon completion of the form, a screen popped up ‘thanking me for my registration.’ She said the computer was provided by the organizers of the drive. Jones added she does not think she received an email confirmation that her application was accepted or denied.
Simeon Sikes said he is a student at AAMU and registered on October 17.
Monica Clarke testified in her statement that she is employed at AAMU as the Freshman Academy Service Learning Coordinator and an adjunct English faculty member. Clarke said her office was in charge of voter registration drives in the classroom, conducted by her, graduate students, and members of Indivisible Fifth and Vote Everywhere.
Clarke said her office held 30 voter registration drives on Sept. 16, 17, 25 and Oct. 8, 9, 10. She testified three other voter registration drives happened on campus on Sept. 25 by three other campus organizations. Clarke said each of the registration forms were returned to her, around 1,100 forms, in order for her to inspect them for any errors. Then, she said they were put in an envelope then delivered to the Madison County Board of Registrars Office.
Clarke said she delivered the forms to the office where they were removed from the envelope and counted in front of a ‘representative.’ Clarke claimed she had to sign in and give her contact information on a sheet of paper at the registrar’s office.
Clarke said she was a poll watcher on November 6. She said she witnessed students listed as ‘active’ on the secretary of state’s website listed as ‘inactive’ when they checked in with poll workers.
Virginia Bailey identified herself as a member of Indivisible Fifth, an organization that works to register students to vote. Bailey said in an affidavit, Indivisible Fifth held voter registration drives on AAMU’s campus every week day from October 5 through October 22, except for October 11. She testified all forms from the students were turned in to Clarke.
Bailey said she made frequent trips to the Madison County Registrar’s Office to turn in applications. She testified she had to sign in and give her contact information. She said she noticed applications submitted from AAMU students.
Bailey also said she met Clarke at least once when they were turning in applications from the university to the board of registrar’s office.
Bailey added she particularly remembers helping AAMU band members with their registration on September 25. Bailey said the band members, who she said she registered personally, were not showing up in the system as of October 19. Still, Bailey testified she knows they were registered without error.