Some Alabamians face difficulty restoring voting rights

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – In 2017, Governor Kay Ivey passed a law that clarified which felony convictions did not take away a person’s right to vote. Thousands of people thought they lost that right when they didn’t. It’s a battle inmate rights groups say people still fight today.

The Southern Poverty Law Center published a report on February 10th outlining what they believe to be some of the challenges people in Alabama face when it comes to voting.

“Even though people are now eligible to vote or eligible to seek restoration of their right to vote based on their convictions there is still an extremely burdensome process to achieve restoration of your right to vote,” said Caren Short, a Senior Staff Attorney at SPLC

Secretary of State John Merrill disagreed saying, “Whenever someone has paid all of their fees and all of their fines associated with their original sentence then their voting rights are automatically restored once a successful application has been made to participate in the electoral process.”

The SPLC says many people who attempt to restore their right to vote need professional help in order to find success.

It’s a struggle local hairstylist Richard Williams knows well. He tried to restore his right to vote 3 times before he found success.

The third time he says he was told by a parole officer he could not vote in Alabama until he settled his dues in other states. He almost gave up.

“By now I am frustrated and I am thinking I am just going to leave it alone because I am not in Texas and Oklahoma and I am not going through all of that to vote even though I want to vote,” said Williams.

He was introduced to the Southern Poverty Law Center and said through them, he was finally given a clear and simple path to becoming a registered voter. “I went that very and got the form it wasn’t about 4 or 5 questions one page.”

Williams filled out the form and mailed it in. He says about 40 days later he received a notice saying he is registered to vote. “It was the last day to register and I got my mail and there was the form saying go register and so I went.”

Now he wants other people in his situation to know they deserve to have their voices heard and there are organizations that can help. “Don’t give up… you know you do have a right to vote.”

The office of the Secretary of State recommends visiting their website to find the correct information on how to register to vote.

Here is some information from the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles on how to see if you qualify to vote.

For those who are looking for help registering to vote you can find resources here.

Or contact Legal Services of Alabama, to see if you qualify, please call their office or apply online. The Huntsville office is located at 610 Airport Rd SW, Suite 200. The office number is (256) 536-9645.

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