Newspaper article The Tuscaloosa News

IDEAS & ISSUES: The Right to Vote, and the Ability

Newspaper article The Tuscaloosa News

IDEAS & ISSUES: The Right to Vote, and the Ability

Article excerpt

According to the July 2014 United States census, the state of Alabama has 4,849,377 citizens, and of those 4.8 million, a shade under 3 million are either active or inactive voters (total active 2,841,676). Also of that 4.8 million, 1.1 million are between the ages of birth to 18.

According to the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, as of Oct. 1, 2015, Alabama has 3.56 million citizens with a driver's license and 750,000 with a non-driver ID card issued by the Department of Motor Vehicles. The 67 Board of Registrars offices and the office of the Secretary of State have issued a combined 6,736 photo identification cards since Jan. 1, 2014. In 2014, 5,294 cards were issued, and this year, 1,442 cards have been issued so far. Therefore, more than 4.3 million Alabamians have photo identification cards that may be used for voting purposes.

This total indicates that 33 percent more Alabamians have some form of qualified government issued photo ID than are eligible to register to vote. If there was ever a question, it has been answered: We do not have a problem with making photo IDs available for voting in Alabama.

As Alabama's secretary of state and chief elections official, I will do everything within my power to ensure that each eligible Alabamian is able to exercise his or her right to vote. In order to exercise the franchise, it is critical to educate, inform and make available tools for each citizen's use in preparation for being ready to vote.

Registering to vote empowers eligible citizens to exercise their right to vote on Election Day, and it is critical that we highlight our numerous efforts to empower all Alabamians to be a valid registered voter. These efforts include ensuring their voter registration is up-to-date, each eligible voter has a qualified government issued ID, voter educational materials are readily accessible and election specific literature is available and understandable to all citizens.

In an effort to ensure that eligible Alabama citizens are able to vote, in March, I reached out to all members of the Alabama Legislature and asked each of them to provide three specific days and venues in their districts where the secretary of state's office could schedule a drive for voter registration and photo voter ID issuance. We further extended this invitation to all probate judges so as not to miss a specific festival or well-attended community event. By Oct. 31, the secretary of state's office will have visited every county in Alabama with the mobile ID unit at least one time. Since June 3, 2014, to participate in an election, a citizen must be registered to vote and present a valid form of photo ID. These voter registration/photo ID drives allow citizens to take the first step in making their vote count. Recently, the closure of 31 driver's license offices raised concern that citizens would be left without a place to receive the required ID card to vote. …

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