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Absentee ballot bill to return in 2024 session

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – One of the more high-profile and debated bills of the 2023 session is now the first bill pre-filed for the 2024 session.

Described by supporters as a way to combat “ballot harvesting,” the legislation would make it a crime for an individual to handle another person’s absentee ballot under certain circumstances. 

Sponsored by Sen. Garlan Gudger, R-Cullman, Senate Bill 1 is nearly identical to bills introduced during the past two legislative sessions.

Under the proposal, it would be a Class A misdemeanor for an individual to order, request, collect, prefill, obtain or deliver an absentee ballot or application on behalf of another person. There are exemptions for those assisting family members, roommates or someone with a disability.

Were an individual to pay another person to assist them with an absentee ballot, that person would be guilty of a Class B felony, and the individual receiving payment guilty of a Class C felony. The aforementioned exemptions would not apply in instances where payments are made.

A near-identical bill was introduced in 2022 by then-State House Rep. Wes Allen, and again in 2023 by Rep. Jamie Kiel, R-Russellville. While both bills ultimately failed to become law, Kiel told Alabama Daily News that he intends to reintroduce his bill during the 2024 legislative session.

Kiel called the failure of his bill last session “frustrating,” and argued that inaccurate media portrayals of his bill played a large role in it failing to make it across the finish line. He had previously told ADN that the bill would help Alabama’s voting process not get “called into question.”

Critics of the bill, such as Rep. Ontario Tillman, D-Bessemer, called the proposal “a solution looking for a problem,” and argued there was no evidence to support the existence of widespread voting fraud in Alabama.

The Alabama Legislature’s 2024 session starts Tuesday, Feb. 6.

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