Thousands of voters in Alabama district drawn to boost Black political power got wrong information

Mar 5, 2024, 5:10 PM

Voters enter and exit a polling facility at the Seale Courthouse in Russell County during a primary...

Voters enter and exit a polling facility at the Seale Courthouse in Russell County during a primary election, Tuesday, March 5, 2024, in Seale, Ala. About 6,000 voters in a new congressional district, that includes Russell County, formed to boost Black representation, received postcards with incorrect voting information ahead of Tuesday’s primary election. (AP Photo/Mike Stewart)

(AP Photo/Mike Stewart)

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — More than 6,000 voters in a newly formed congressional district drawn to boost Black voting power in Alabama received postcards with incorrect voting information ahead of Tuesday’s primary, alarming advocates concerned about the potential impact on a race seen as crucial to boosting Black representation and Democrats’ hopes to flip the U.S. House in November.

James Snipes, chair of the Montgomery County Board of Registrars, said 6,593 county voters received postcards listing the incorrect congressional district after the county’s election software misidentified some people living in the 2nd Congressional District as living in the 7th.

Snipes said voters arriving at the polls were still able to vote for the correct candidates. The county had sent about 2,000 notices to affected voters as of Tuesday evening and will send out an additional 4,000 on Wednesday, he said.

“Everyone who came to their precinct was able to vote for the correct candidates,” Snipes said, attributing the incorrect information to a “software glitch” made when adjusting to the recent shift in state congressional districts. “This was a good-faith effort.”

Montgomery County, home to about 159,000 registered voters, now falls in the 2nd Congressional District after a federal court drew new congressional lines in November. That was in response to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that the state had diluted the voting power of Black residents, violating the Voting Rights Act.

The three-judge panel decided that Alabama, which is 27% Black, should have a second district where Black voters comprise a large share of the population. The move has sparked a congested and competitive primary contest as Democrats hope to flip the congressional seat in the fall.

The redrawn map could lead to the election of two Black congressional representatives from the state for the first time. After the districts were redrawn, Black residents will comprise nearly 49% of the 2nd district’s voting-age population, up from less than one-third.

“For many Black voters in that district, this is the first election where they have the opportunity to elect a representative who looks like them,” said Camille Wimbish, national director of campaigns and field programs for the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “This could have caused many Black Alabamans to just stay home and not vote at all.”

State Rep. Napoleon Bracy Jr., one of 11 Democratic candidates running in the 2nd District primary, said “it is disappointing to see that voters in Montgomery County are facing classic disenfranchisement.” He noted it came days after the state marked an anniversary of key events that led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act.

Election officials caught an error in the cards sent to voters in January and attempted to update their systems so voters would be listed in the correct congressional district, said Snipes, of the county elections board.

“We thought we had it all fixed,” he said, adding that officials didn’t realize that more voters had been affected. “We can’t figure out how the software did that to us.”

Laney Rawls, executive assistant for Alabama’s secretary of state, said the office was not involved in sending the postcards to voters.

It was one of the few issues reported on Super Tuesday, the biggest day of the primary calendar. Only sporadic voting problems surfaced, most of which were resolved quickly. In Texas’ Travis County, which includes Austin, some voters had problems checking in when they tried to cast their ballots.

The Travis County Clerk’s Office said about 1% of registered voters were affected. Officials blamed a “data issue” but did not offer more details. Affected voters were asked to either wait while the problem was resolved or were told they could cast a provisional ballot if they couldn’t wait.

“Our team quickly identified the issue and pushed out a solution,” the clerk’s office said in an email.


Associated Press writer Juan A. Lozano in Houston contributed to this report.

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Thousands of voters in Alabama district drawn to boost Black political power got wrong information