No votes for the dead

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 26, 2002

Some 150,000 people who might otherwise have cast ballots won't get to vote in the forthcoming county, state and national races. But that's OK. Those folks are dead.

Not only are they dead, they have now been buried as far as voting is concerned. Time was, unfortunately, that was not always the case. Leaving this life, in some precincts where the law was flouted, didn't necessarily mean that voting privileges went, too.

It's not a legacy Alabama can be proud of.

But the citizens can be proud of a 13-year effort by the Alabama secretary of state's office to purge the state's voter rolls of people who have died, moved away or exhibited so little interest in their right to vote that they have missed four consecutive elections.

The voter rolls of all 67 counties in the state have been put on computer, and the state's tracking system, which includes a voter's movement from one precinct to another, has seen some 50,000 voters removed, in addition to those who have expired.

Also, state officials are sending cards every four years requesting information from voters. If cards are not returned, those voters are placed on an inactive list. They can still vote if they show up at the polls on election day, but they must fill out a card with relevant information to get off the inactive list.

While the system isn't perfect – thousands of voters remain on the inactive list – the news that the voter rolls have been vastly improved should offer consolation to those who push each legislative session for voter identification cards. Such cards would only be necessary if someone offered proof of voting fraud. Otherwise, such cards work against minorities and elderly people. With the cleansing of the voter rolls, I.D. cards lose their potency as an issue.

Those who are still on the inactive list, first-time voters who want to participate in the Nov. 5 election or potential voters who want to be sure that they are properly registered have until Friday, Oct. 25, to make sure they are on the books properly. Come Nov. 5, they can go to the polls – like their ancestors who fought for the right to vote – and vote for whom they wish. Those ancestors, however, no longer get to mark a ballot, as some connived for them to do in the past.

More honest voting is alive and well in Alabama, thanks to a lengthy effort to make it so.

The Huntsville Times

Sept. 25, 2002