Madison County Commission delays publication of voter lists in community newspapers ahead of primaries

MADISON COUNTY, Ala. (WHNT) – Members Members of the Madison County Commission debated on Wednesday whether to fund publication of the 300,000-strong list of registered voters in more than one local newspaper.

Part of Alabama’s election laws include in part: “The Probate Judge shall publish from the State’s voter registration list a correct alphabetical list of qualified voters, either by county, precinct, district or subdivision in which every elector is registered to vote, in a newspaper with general circulation in the county…”

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

Commission Chairman Dale Strong said the proposed spending was unnecessary for people who simply needed to verify their voting locations and eligibility.

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

District 6 Commissioner Violet Edwards chimed in, pointing out that one of the newspapers that would be denied readers access to verify their voter registration is Speakin’ Out News, a black-owned newspaper based in Huntsville.

“You can go to recreation centers in north Huntsville, you can go to a lot of bigger churches, and people can get Speakin’ Out News for free. Yes, we have internet here on this forum, we have phones (to look up voting information) but there are people who still pick up this log. They can still continue in that log and make sure their names are still on the lists.

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

“So many people have gone to the polls only to find their names weren’t there and it left a lot of people confused after queuing, and how they’re trying to figure out how they’re going to vote. It just left a certain 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 supported Edwards’ motion to keep the list of publications expanded beyond the Huntsville Times. Strong said any votes would be deferred until the Commission’s next meeting on April 13.

As a result, Commissioner Edwards said the funding is unlikely to arrive in time to be published in other newspapers before the May primary election.

“Clearly we spend our money where we want and we just chose not to spend the $7,000,” she said.


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