Legal change for Ala. felons could open door to more voters

DOTHAN, Ala. — Tuesday’s Alabama special Senate election is the first under a new Alabama law that opens the door for more felons to vote, a law that could help boost turnout. 

State law has previously barred felons from voting if they were convicted of crimes of “moral turpitude.” But with no clear definition of that phrase, many felons were unable to register and told that they could not vote. 

The Republican-controlled state legislature resolved the issue in May, codifying the definition to provide more clarity for voters. The new law strips voting rights from people who commit any of the specific crimes on the list, which includes crimes such as murder, kidnapping, rape, sexual abuse and terrorism. 

ADVERTISEMENTWith that clarification, thousands of felons who thought they were unable to vote or had been turned away for their criminal record are now eligible to vote. Pastor Kenneth Glasgow, the half-brother of civil rights activist and MSNBC host the Rev. Al Sharpton, has spent years working to expand the voting rights of felons in the state and played an integral role in pushing for the law change. That interest comes from his experience as a felon who once lost his own right to vote.  “I did 14 years, I got out in 2001, and I wanted to go vote. but I found out that I couldn’t,” Glasgow said. 

“I said, “Since y’all aren’t going to let me vote, I’m going to make sure everybody I know can vote,’ ” he said.

He’s since received a partial pardon, according to ThinkProgress, and can now vote.  

Glasgow spent Tuesday morning outside the main branch of the Dothan Houston County Library System, a public library just a short drive from where Republican candidate Roy Moore held his final campaign rally on Monday night.  

There, Glasgow frenetically fielded phone calls from allies around the state who are bringing newly registered voters to the polls and answered questions from those who were told they were not on the voter rolls when they showed up. 

Among those whom he greeted at the polls on Tuesday morning was Anna Reynolds. Reynolds had voted in the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections, but was told that her conviction on a possession charge had disqualified her from the ballot. 

The new law paved the way for Reynolds to vote, but her voting status was once again put in jeopardy when she was told that outstanding court fines would prevent her from voting. But with Glasgow’s help, she received paperwork from the Board of Pardons that cleared her way to vote. 

“It feels good,” Reynolds said, adding that she voted for Democrat Doug Jones.

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