The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) today filed a complaint in federal court on behalf of four Black college students who were unlawfully denied their right to vote in Tuesday’s election in Alabama. The complaint is against Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill and election officials in Madison County, Alabama.
“Nothing is more fundamental than the right to vote, and these students, despite complying with all of Alabama’s regulations, were denied that right,” said LDF Senior Counsel Catherine Meza. “We are hopeful that the court will right this wrong and restore to our plaintiffs the voice to which they are entitled as American citizens.”
The plaintiffs, who are students at Alabama A&M University, had all registered before the election. But upon arriving at the polls on Tuesday, they were informed that they were not registered and had to fill out provisional ballots. The students had received no notice of any problems with their registrations, and the day after the election, the Alabama Secretary of State’s website listed the plaintiffs as registered to vote.
In a separate matter, LDF sent a letter to Secretary of State Merrill on Election Day asking him to address reports of confusion at Alabama polling sites over how to process the votes of voters listed as “inactive.” Under Alabama law, such voters are entitled to cast a regular ballot as long as they fill out an updated registration form, but many voters were denied those forms and were made to fill out provisional ballots.
In response to our letter, Merrill tweeted, “No there’s no confusion except what your [sic] manufacturing.” In an e-mail to Buzzfeed, a spokesperson for the secretary characterized LDF’s letter as “an unfortunate attempt at political grandstanding.”
“Secretary Merrill’s indifference to his constituents’ ability to vote is unfortunate,” said LDF Assistant Counsel Daniel Harawa. “As the state’s chief election official, he has a responsibility to ensure that all Alabamians can exercise the right to vote. On Tuesday, he did not appear eager to fulfill that responsibility.”