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Ivey signs bill to prohibit so-called ‘ballot harvesting’

MONTGOMERY — Collecting absentee ballots is now a felony in Alabama, after Gov. Kay Ivey signed legislation outlawing “ballot harvesting.”

State lawmakers gave final approval to the bill Tuesday that outlaws paid assistance with absentee ballot applications. Ivey signed it Wednesday.

“Here in Alabama, we are committed to ensuring our elections are free and fair,” said Ivey. ‘I commend Secretary of State Wes Allen, as well as members of the Alabama Legislature for making election security a priority, and I am proud to officially sign Senate Bill 1 into law.

“Under my watch, there will be no funny business in Alabama elections.”

Allen said the bill prevents “ballot harvesters” from manipulating Alabama’s absentee elections process and threatening the security of Alabama elections by making it illegal to pay or to be paid by a third-party organization to pre-fill and/or collect absentee ballot applications.

It would be a misdemeanor to distribute a pre-filled absentee ballot application to a voter or return another voter’s completed application. But, collecting ballots would become a felony if the person gives or receives a payment or gift “for distributing, ordering, requesting, collecting, completing, prefilling, obtaining, or delivering a voter’s absentee ballot application.”

Republicans said the law is needed to combat voter fraud from people collecting multiple absentee ballots.

“Free and fair elections are the foundation of our constitutional republic. The passage of SB1 signals to ballot harvesters that Alabama votes are not for sale,” Allen said. “The Alabama Legislature and Governor Ivey have made it clear that Alabama voters have the right to cast their own vote without undue influence.

“As Secretary of State, ensuring fair, secure, and transparent elections are a top priority. Today, Alabama elections were protected and strengthened. The passage of SB1 is a victory for Alabama elections.”

Democrats have argued there is no proof in so-called “ballot harvesting.” They say the legislation is aimed at trying to make it harder for people vote by absentee ballot.

“It’s just another voter suppression,” Senate Minority Leader Bobby Singleton (D-Greensboro) said. “It’s just a means of suppressing certain people from having the ability and right to access to the free flowing of the vote.”

There are exceptions for people to help their family members or for the blind, disabled, or illiterate to get assistance in voting.

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