MADISON COUNTY COMMISSION DELAYS VOTER LIST PUBLICATION TO COMMUNITY PAPERS AHEAD OF THE PRIMARIES

by: Samson Tamijani, WHNT News 19

District 6 Commissioner Violet Edwards interjected, pointing out one of the papers
that would be denied readers’ access to double-check their voting registration is
Speakin’ Out News, a Black-owned statewide paper based in Huntsville. (WHNT NEWS 19

MADISON COUNTY, Ala. (WHNT) — Members Members of the Madison County Commission debated Wednesday whether or not to fund the publishing of the registered voters list, 300,000 strong, in more than one local newspaper.

Part of Alabama’s election laws includes in part: “The judge of probate shall publish from the state voter registration list a correct alphabetical list of qualified electors either by county, precinct, district, or subdivision wherein each elector is registered to vote, in some newspaper with general circulation in the county…”

Publishing the lists with an edition of the Huntsville Times, one newspaper publication being the minimum required by the law, would cost $15,000 but is reimbursable from the state. However, reimbursement for publishing in additional papers is not guaranteed in 2022, according to Madison County Attorney Jeff Rich.

Commission Chairman Dale Strong found the proposed expenses unnecessary for people needing to simply check their voting locations and eligibility.

Madison County Chair Commissioner Dale Strong says a secondary newspaper is “unnecessary” and “can’t imagine how many trees we’re going to have to chop down to do this”.

“You go online and do it,” he said. “I can’t imagine how many trees we’re going to have to chop down to do this, but again we’re going to meet the federal law… But this is a pretty excessive expense to send a voter list out that I would probably guess less than one percent of the voters even look at the voter list.”

District 6 Commissioner Violet Edwards interjected, pointing out one of the papers that would be denied readers’ access to double-check their voting registration is Speakin’ Out News, a Black-owned statewide paper based in Huntsville.

“You can go in the recreation centers in north Huntsville, you can go to many of the larger churches and people can pick up Speakin’ Out News free of charge. Yes, we have internet here on this board, we have phones (to research voting info) but there are people who still pick up that newspaper. They can still go on in that paper and make sure that their names are still on the lists.”

Edwards said the need stems from 2018 when there was a purge of voters and that without added access the county would be contributing to voter disenfranchisement, affecting thousands of voters of color.

“So many people got to the polls only to find out their name wasn’t on it and it left a lot of people bewildered after they were in the line, and how they’re trying to figure out just how they’re going to vote. It just left some frustration,” Edwards said.

The disagreement sparked a rare back-and-forth exchange with commission members and county officials lasting at least 15 minutes. However, no other member seconded Edwards’ motion to keep the list of publications expanded beyond Huntsville Times. Strong said any vote would be delayed until the next Commission meeting on April 13.

As a result, Commissioner Edwards said the funding likely won’t come in time for publication in additional newspapers before the May Primary Elections.

“It’s just clear that we spend our money where we want to and we just chose not to spend the $7,000,” she said.