MADISON COUNTY, Ala. (WHNT) — Commissioner Violet Edwards repeatedly appealed to her colleagues to consider approving voting lists to be printed and included in the community newspaper ‘Speakin’ Out News’, the largest Black-owned publication of its kind in Alabama.
However, in Wednesday’s Madison County Commission meeting, the measure again failed to pass, with other commissioners opposed to an extra $15,000 spent from the county’s general budget.
William D. Smothers, founder of the Huntsville-based newspaper told News 19 it breaks from a repeated trend in past election years.
“We have published the voter’s list since during the time with (former commission chairman Mike Gillespie), I guess a decade or more,” Smothers said.
“The decision of where to publish rests with the probate judge, but the probate judge was uncomfortable with publication more than what would be legally mandated which in his opinion – and I agree with him – is in the Huntsville Times,” Madison County Attorney Jeff Rich said to commissioners during the meeting.
With a second from Commissioner Phil Vandiver, Edwards’ last-ditch motion to let the public comment on the matter in the middle of the meeting passed.
“We sent an offer to you all and the probate judge offering a 50 percent match contribution toward the publishing in Speakin’ Out News,” Angela Curry of United Women of Color said during the public comments. “(But) we did not receive a response from anyone. We did not receive a response from anyone even acknowledging that we had sent the letter. The Speakin’ Out News is free (to pick up inside subscribing establishments), a public publication, and is easily accessible to the elderly and those with limited internet access.”
“The reality is that by limiting the voter verification process, you could be disenfranchising 43,896 Madison County voters,” Jessica Barker of Lift Our Vote said to commissioners. “And as elected representatives, each of you understands the difference that each vote can make.”
However no other commissioners were convinced, and Edwards’ motion to vote on funding failed again without a second.
“It’s important that the list is published, but in this case, I just felt that it should come out of general funds,” Edwards said. “It’s not the responsibility of any one district to fund this county-wide initiative.”
“(The issue) should be taken seriously,” Smothers said. “It’s nothing to brush under copy and say ‘Well, it’ll pass.’ No. This election will be very crucial to us, to all of us.”
The publication will go forward in time for the May primary election as it turns out, Edwards said, after reluctantly reverting to using her own district budget to fund the necessary $7,500. The other half of the money will be reimbursed by the state, Commissioner Edwards said.